Categories crunchfx

Legal troubles mount for Scott’s Pointe; DEC fines operator for allegedly violating permit conditions

The state Department of Environmental Protection last week issued tickets to the operator of Scott’s Pointe and its president, Eric Scott, for “failure to comply with the permitted land use plan for mines,” RiverheadLOCAL has learned.

The penalties were issued July 3, a week after the state agency issued a violation notice to Island Water Park Corp. stating that the park’s groundwater-fed pool with an inflatable water park and public recreation activities violated the operator’s minefield permit. The DEC ordered the company to stop using the park’s water park and stop public recreation at the lake. The June 26 violation notice said that the operator’s constructed asphalt track and parking lot also violated the minefield permit.

Island Water Park Corp. faces civil penalties of $8,000 for each violation of the mine-use plan and $2,000 for each day the violation continues, according to a June 26 notice. The DEC charges will be evaluated administratively by the state agency, a DEC spokeswoman said.

Scott did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

The DEC’s action last week came the same day that the Town of Riverhead filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Superior Court seeking an order to temporarily close the park until the site comes into compliance with town code. The town’s lawsuit does not concern the location or use of the water park on the pond. Violations cited in the lawsuit filed by town officials on June 3 include the construction of go-kart tracks and pickleball courts without permits and site plan approval, as well as the conversion of a storage area into a party room without approvals and failure to install a required emergency response radio coverage system on the property, according to the complaint.

The town is also asking the court to order the removal of the go-kart track and pickleball courts, return the property to its “pre-violation condition” and impose a fine of at least $100,000 on the company.

RiverheadLOCAL and area residents who reached out to the publication observed people using the water park between June 26 and July 3. The water park was also seen to be staffed by lifeguards.

Children and an adult in the water and part of the water park as seen from the Riverhead Township property adjacent to Scott’s Pointe on June 29. RiverheadLOCAL/Denise Civiletti

The inflatable water park at Scott’s Pointe is located at the northernmost tip of the property’s 12.5-acre groundwater-fed pond. It is one of the main attractions at Scott’s Pointe. A representative for the company told the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency at a hearing on Nov. 8, 2021, that the water park would be “the largest in the world.” Ken Meyers of Island Water Park said at the hearing that the facility would feature indoor and outdoor recreational activities, be open year-round and is expected to draw about 900,000 visitors annually. RIDA approved financial assistance for Island Water Park that evening, including property tax abatements and exemptions for sales tax and mortgage recording taxes over 10 years.

Admission to the water park attraction costs $40 for one hour and $60 for two consecutive hours, according to the company’s website. The company’s web portal for purchasing tickets and scheduling use remains operational.

The most recent amended site plan for Scott’s Pointe, approved by the Town Board in February 2022, does not depict the water park. The site plan approval includes a condition limiting the use of the lake, stating: “Use of the lake at the site shall be limited to non-motorized water sport use, including the proposed zip line system and canoes, rowboats, charter sailboats, etc.” Another site plan condition states: “No additional structures or devices shall be constructed or placed on the lake without obtaining an amended site plan approval from the Riverhead Town Board.”

Riverhead Senior Planner Greg Bergman, who reviewed the amended site plan application for the town, said the water park is a non-motorized water sport use more similar to an inflatable boat and is permitted under the town’s site plan approval conditions.

Because the site’s pond is fed by groundwater and is located within the catchment area of ​​the Riverhead Water District well field, the town required Island Water Park to install two groundwater monitoring wells on the site and enter into a “Groundwater Monitoring Well Agreement” with the Town of Riverhead and the Riverhead Water District for a period of 20 years. The monitoring wells would serve as early warning of contamination that could affect the town’s public water supply.

Kelly McClinchy, a clean drinking water advocate from Manorville and a member of the citizen advisory board for environmental remediation of the former Grumman site where Scott’s Pointe is located, raised the possibility that runoff from the racetrack could contaminate the lake and groundwater in the area.

“The lake, as we know, is fed by the water carrier,” McClinchy said via Zoom at the City Council meeting on June 16. “And with the joy and privilege of operating a business like this comes the responsibility of really being a good steward of the environment and just being a good neighbor to a precious resource like our water,” he said.

McClinchy said he requested a copy of the groundwater monitoring agreement under the Freedom of Information Act in February, but as of June 16, he had not received a copy of the agreement.

RiverheadLOCAL filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the document on June 21 and obtained a copy of the agreement from the Riverhead Water District on July 1. The document is undated and is signed by Scott at the bottom of the last page with Scott’s name above a hand-drawn line and the word “owner” written below it. There is a notary seal beneath the signature. However, the document does not bear a notary’s signature confirming that the signature belongs to the person named as the signer of the document. It also does not bear the signature of any witness. Nor is the document signed by any town official. Typically, the Town Board authorizes the auditor to sign a binding agreement by resolution.

When asked last week why the town had not signed the agreement, Town Attorney Erik Howard said the town did not need to sign the document because “it is not an agreement.” Howard said the document was a “declaration” by Scott and “it is enforceable because it was notarized.”

Island Water Park Corp. was also required to record the terms of the monitoring well agreement in the form of a contract with the Suffolk County Clerk under its 2022 declaration of covenants and restrictions. As of today, no such contract exists on record, according to the clerk’s website.

Riverhead Water District Manager Frank Mancini said in an interview that he received the agreement the same day the town attorney’s office sent it to him in response to RiverheadLOCAL’s Freedom of Information Act request. He said it was the first time he had seen the agreement in a long time. He had previously been asked by the town attorney’s assistant to comment on the draft agreement, and he said he had. However, he said he had not heard anything further.

The pond itself was originally planned and permitted in 2003 as a pair of bentonite clay-lined ponds totaling 18.7 acres, to be filled with water purchased from the Riverhead Water District. At the time, Island Water Park Corp. was proposing a recreational water ski club. The company obtained a land reclamation permit from the DEC, allowing it to excavate 227,693 cubic yards of sand and gravel to construct the ponds. According to the 2003 DEC permit, approximately 65% ​​of the excavated amount would remain on site and approximately 35% would be removed from the site.

While mining the site, the developer unexpectedly encountered groundwater within the permitted excavation depth limits. The ponds were eventually reconfigured with DEC approval, reducing the total surface water area to 12.5 acres in a single groundwater-fed pond. The DEC issued a revised permit in 2012. No gas-powered watercraft were to be used on the pond. Instead, an “electric cable-towing system for water sports” was permitted. The new permit allowed the construction of two buildings, one 45,500 square feet and the other 6,000 square feet, and 28,000 square feet of gravel parking area. Permitted uses on the site were a restaurant, a fitness center, storage, and office space.

The DEC permit was renewed in 2017, 2019 and 2021. The 2021 permit expired in May 2023 and is currently pending renewal, according to the DEC. Therefore, the permit is still active and an original $38,000 surety bond is still in effect to ensure the developer complies with the terms of the permit, according to the DEC.

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small, family-run business. You depend on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to deliver this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.