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Smithtown halts sand work at Kings Park youth soccer site

A soccer academy slated for a site in

A soccer academy slated for a site in Kings Park, seen on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, remains undeveloped as town officials halted preparations on a portion of the job site. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Smithtown officials have ordered a halt to work on a portion of the Kings Park site of a proposed youth academy for a major European soccer club, saying developers took so much sand off the property they left a steep, unstable slope.

The town’s Sept. 26 order forbids further excavation or addition of material to the 40-foot-tall northern slope of the site, a 44-acre former sand mine off Old Northport Road.

Town engineer Mark Riley said removal of sand from the area earlier this year had created a roughly 45-degree slope — about twice as steep as had been approved — that threatened to erode material and cut into a 50-foot buffer between the site and homes on Marvin Drive.

The homes are not in jeopardy, officials said, but neighbors have complained that the buffer is too narrow, exposing them to dust, noise and the unappealing view of acres of dirt.

The Manhattan-based developer, Prospect Sports Partners, must submit plans to fix the slope and address a number of other design concerns before the company proceeds with construction, town officials said.

In the middle of the dispute is FC Barcelona, the Spanish soccer team that is expanding into the U.S. market with five youth academies already in place. The Kings Park facility would be its first in the U.S. Northeast.

Riley said Prospect Sports told him about 30,000 cubic yards of sand had been removed under the approved site plan. The company paid a sand-removal fee to the town of more than $10,000. “They were going to give it to a concrete plant in a barter plan,” Riley said.

Principals of Prospect Sports Partners did not respond to questions emailed to the company’s attorney, J. Timothy Shea.

The order stipulates that town engineers must approve a plan to “create a stable slope and work area” before work there can start again. Town officials said last week that Prospect Sports officials had agreed to make corrections, but that no plan had been submitted. The order does not prohibit work on other areas of the site.

A drone photograph of the slope taken by the town on Oct. 25 shows that sections of the buffer had been undermined, sending topsoil tumbling and leaving an orange mesh fence dangling. Town officials said they do not think any construction has started.

Prospect Sports Partners in 2014 submitted plans to the town for a $33 million multisport complex at the site. Plans called for five outdoor multipurpose fields with a concession building, a 3,600-square-foot pool, a 65,040-square-foot building with indoor sports fields and a training center, two medical offices for sports medicine and rehabilitation, as well as space for retail and restaurant use, and more than 1,100 parking spaces.

Town officials approved the site plan in July 2015. Work was to have started within months. By the fall, however, a company official said in a town public hearing that a solar energy facility proposed for another Old Northport Road location had scared potential tenants away. The solar project has since been approved.

Dot Weisse, 77, whose Marvin Drive house overlooks the site, said she was simply hoping for an end to dust, noise and even a frog infestation that she blamed on work conducted there. She looked forward to construction of the soccer facility, she said. “It can’t be worse than this,” she said.

FC Barcelona announced late this month that the team plans to open a training academy at the site for thousands of Long Island boys and girls by 2019, and project engineers have told town officials privately that they hope to open two fields there by spring.

The team has no role in building the complex, said Arno Trabesinger, managing director for FC Barcelona in the Americas. The team will take 15 percent of the royalties income and 50 percent of the project’s profits.

Trabesinger said he was unaware of the town’s stop-work order, but said he “absolutely” had confidence in Prospect Sports to get the job done, he said, calling the company “very strong and very experienced.”

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