Photo: Denise Civiletti

Reading the RiverheadLOCAL report on Island Water Park’s disregard for town laws and codes, it was striking to see the lack of outrage by our town government, especially Councilman Tim Hubbard and Town Attorney Erik Howard. Riverhead is earning a reputation for letting businesses do what they want, regardless of rules and restrictions, as our government turns a blind eye.

Earlier this summer, the public’s call for consequences was ignored over Riverhead Ciderhouse expanding without permits or permission.  Now we learn Island Water Park has been operating without obtaining a certificate of occupancy or proper permits. Ignoring legal requirements, they have had firework displays in the Pine Barrens, served alcohol and food at large events indoors and on the lake, and appear to have use motorized water vehicles where not permitted.

And our would-be supervisor, Mr. Hubbard, was quick to defend and deflect, saying “…if it was just like family members or somebody going in to use the equipment on their property, I really don’t have a big issue with that.” In other words, no need to adhere to town codes if you are a campaign contributor, friend or family.

Town Attorney Erik Howard backed up his father-in-law, saying: “If it is, you know, friends and family, I think there’s a little bit of leeway there.” Yes, you read that correctly. Our town attorney Howard stating that Island Water Park doesn’t need to adhere to our town codes.

To add insult to injury, this is taking place on the taxpayers’ dime as Island Water Park is another beneficiary of IDA tax breaks and already two years behind on their promised 220 seasonal jobs. Their hefty campaign contribution two years ago was coincidental to their IDA approval. 

Shouldn’t Mr. Hubbard instead, and at the very least, be asking the IDA to cancel and require repayment?

Planning Board chairperson and Town Board candidate Joann Waski appears to be on board with Mr. Hubbard’s New Rules for Riverhead. Hers was the deciding vote to grant a pass to Riverhead Ciderhouse, another favored campaign donor, approving the already built (without permits) expansion, despite public outcry and being in direct violation of the original site plan approval. 

Did Riverhead Ciderhouse also receive IDA tax benefits?  Who knows?  The IDA website is required to list all beneficiaries. It doesn’t. But it does have an outdated listing of Riverhead officials, still showing the former community development director who left the post in June 2017 — and was identified in court documents as representing Triple Five in January 2018 in the company’s purchase of commercial property in Brookhaven Town.

We deserve better. Not partisan favors, not giving away tax dollars, not looking the other way or making exceptions. We want, need and deserve our leadership to have the integrity and the backbone to stand up to protect and enforce the laws and town codes and the residents of Riverhead.

Remember this when it comes time to vote on Nov. 7.

Laura Jens-Smith, a former town supervisor (2018-2019), is the current chairperson of the Riverhead Town Democratic Committee. She lives in Laurel.

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