The Suffolk County Planning Commission Wednesday approved a site plan for a $20 million proposal to turn a heavily sand-mined area in Calverton into an 11-acre pond that would feature cable towers to tow water skiers.
Although several members worried about impact on the local water resources, the commission voted 11-1 with one abstention to approve the plan to turn the 42-acre site into a recreational area fed by the underground water supply.
"I promise you this will have no environmental impact; everyone is going to love it, even people who don't use it," said Eric Scott, owner of Island Water Park. "It's going to be grass, trees and water."
Scott, a Port Jefferson boat dealer, proposed in 2003 to create two parallel, lined ponds where motor boats would pull skiers and wake boarders. However, the project ran afoul of state regulators when excavation dug into the groundwater, putting part of the site under with several feet of water.
Revised plans now calls for one larger, unlined pond, which would be fed by groundwater. No motor boats would be allowed. Two towers, one as high as 37 feet, would use cables to tow as many as 16 skiers at a time. Thomas Cramer, consultant for the project said that tower cable systems originated in Germany but have also been used in Texas and Florida.
Another part of the pond would accommodate canoes and kayaks as well as scuba diving. The complex also would include volleyball courts, beach areas ringing the pond, a restaurant, snack bar, fitness club and shops. The developers hope to open by 2014.
Commission member Adrienne Esposito, who opposed the site plan, said groundwater fluctuates and fears it will not fill the pond, forcing owners to seek permission to pump in additional water, affecting other users. "This makes no sense. There is no artesian well that is going to spring up," she said. "Mark my words, they will be back . . . and everyone will crumble like a cookie."
However, Cramer said the area has been excavated as much as 20 to 25 feet and they are within 3-4 feet of reaching groundwater. He said they have permission to dig another 25 feet, more than enough to fill the pond under any condition.
Another commission member, Michael Kaufman, estimated it would take 72 million gallons to fill the pond, but he said it is still the best use for the scarred site.
"What else are we going to do with the property? It's below ground level; you can't build houses there," he said.