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Feb 1, 2017 11:29 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Planning Board Chairman Says North Sea Camp Change Of Use Ruling Would Limit Attendees

The majority of attendees at the public hearing were against the proposed change of use.  JEN NEWMAN
Feb 3, 2017 4:22 PM

As neighbors continue to voice concerns over a proposed change of use for a North Sea summer camp, with most citing its potential impact on nearby Little Fresh Pond, some are now warning that the current situation could worsen if the application is denied.

According to Southampton Town Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty, there are currently no town code-imposed limits on the number of children who can attend the Southampton Country Day Camp. If the Planning Board signs off on the change of use request filed by camp owner Jay Jacobs, Mr. Finnerty said, it could then cap the number of camp attendees. Between 216 and 280 children attend the camp, which operates for 10 weeks every summer.

“The code doesn’t differentiate between camps,” Mr. Finnerty explained this week. “The applicants are seeking to change use, but right now they’re operating a day camp and a tennis club. What’s occurring now at the camp—if the applicant withdrew his application—all of those activities would still continue. They’re operating legally. We’re going under that premise, and part of our task is to mitigate those activities [that are] under way.”

Mr. Jacobs is seeking to alter his property’s permitted use from “tennis club and tennis camp” to “tennis club and day camp.” If approved, the change would allow various modifications, such as the facility upgrades and the widening of the existing driveway, to proceed on the nearly 17.3-acre property near the pond.

According to Mr. Finnerty, public comments on the requested change of use will remain open until the end of February, at which time his board would need to draft a final environmental impact statement for the proposal—and then issue a finding statement on the application. If that occurs, the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals would make the final decision, though, as noted by Mr. Finnerty, their rulings typically mirror those of the Planning Board.

Mr. Finnerty declined to offer any insight on how his board is leaning, though he seemed particularly concerned with the lack of a cap on potential campers. “They can have 500 campers today if they wanted to,” he said. “Right now, there’s no limitation. One of the things we’re hoping to get out of it is limitations to, what is now, an open-ended amount.”

Neighbors like Celeste Frank, president of the Little Fresh Pond Association, have raised multiple issues about the camp, including what she describes as “insufficient” sight distance for bus drivers pulling out of the camp and onto Majors Path. She and others have also raised issues with the lack of buffers from their homes and the potential impact of the facility on Little Fresh Pond.

“I think we’re all just a little bit heartbroken,” Ms. Frank said. “We’ve lived there for so long in a quiet little area. Seeing the history with the developer, we’re just very frightened that we’re going to end up in a worse scenario than we’re in now.”

Noise from the camp’s current activities, including tennis lessons, swimming and other sporting activities during the summer months, have forced Ms. Frank to adjust her life, she said. For example, she said she now travels to Southampton Village for her work conference calls.

“Sound travels—it’s just that it’s constant, and consistent all day long, and you can hear it inside the house,” she said. “Certainly, I have no ill will toward somebody who supports the camp—there’s a lot of different perspectives—but I kind of feel like the neighbors impacted by the noise are being burdened by having to prove we’re entitled to enjoy our property, and that’s not fair.”

Thomas Coffey, the on-site director of the camp, said this week that in order to provide the 100-foot buffer that residents have requested, the camp would need to remove several buildings and an existing tennis court. He also noted that the camp’s buses are smaller, 15-passenger vehicles—and not larger school buses.

“We do understand their concerns, but we’re doing the best we can,” Mr. Coffey said. “If we don’t get this, which we may not, we can’t improve anything. We can continue to keep doing exactly what we’re doing now.”

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I would like to point out directly to Mr Thomas Coffey, his noted removal of the existing tennis court is not to provide any buffer but as stated in the plans, so that can be replaced with a 5000 SF basketball court - making it one of the largest gathering areas on the site less than 5 feet from the property line. ZB code requires a 100 foot buffer.
By Woodhouse Park (2), Southampton on Feb 1, 17 8:06 PM
The Town Boards do not seem to have enough concern for Little Fresh Pond. The ponds on the East End (and all throughout LI) have been suffering the deadly effects of nitrogen run-off from human activity. We have already lost Lake Agawam, Mill Pond, and Georgica Pond is in critical condition. The blue/green algae that takes over the lakes is so toxic that dogs have died from drinking the water. Once gone, the lakes cannot be brought back to health. That means, no fishing, no swimming, no games of ...more
By lindsaybee (4), Southampton on Feb 2, 17 4:29 PM
1 member liked this comment