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Mar 8, 2019 12:22 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton Town ZBA Approves Application For North Sea Day Camp

Southampton Town ZBA Chairman Adam Grossman reads the board's decision on the Southampton Day Camp. GREG WEHNER
Mar 12, 2019 3:40 PM

A North Sea tennis camp was granted approval to operate as a day camp and tennis club by the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals last week, ending a nearly eight-year battle.

The board’s decision on Thursday, March 7, though not unanimous—ZBA member Michael Daley voted against the measure—allows the camp owner, State Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs, to switch the property’s use from one nonconforming use to another. He must now take his plan to the Planning Board for site plan approval.

Chairman Adam Grossman and board members Cornelius Kelly, Jason Hann and Helen Burgess voted in favor of the proposal. ZBA member Keith Tuthill was not at the meeting.

“This board finds that the proposal to change the use of the property … from a pre-existing, nonconforming use as a tennis club and/or tennis camp to another nonconforming use, a tennis club and/or day camp, will be beneficial to the general neighborhood and is hereby approved,” Mr. Grossman read from the board’s written decision, noting that the Planning Board still must approve a site plan.

Mr. Jacobs plans a summer day camp to meet the growing demand for summer camps for children. The town has been reviewing his proposal to change the use of the property, known as the Southampton Country Day Camp, which is located in a residential neighborhood near Little Fresh Pond.

The property—centered on 17.4 acres near the pond, and which includes 12 cottages, a cabin, kitchen and dining hall, a residence, clubhouse, basketball court, 10 tennis courts, a swimming pool, parking and decking and patios—operated as a membership tennis club, a pre-existing and nonconforming use, up until 2006.

In 2012, the ZBA determined that Mr. Jacobs’s property could be re-zoned and passed the application back to the Planning Board for an environmental review. Planning Board members determined, under the State Environmental Quality Review Act in 2018, that Mr. Jacobs could operate the facility as a summer camp for children without doing any harm to the environment.

On Thursday, when given an opportunity to speak on the decision, all five board members in attendance remained mum, as has long been their custom, even after major decisions.

Ironically, a proposal that faced passionate opposition from many neighbors on Little Fresh Pond won approval from the board based on a number of factors that were suggested to be benefits to the neighborhood. For example, the camp plans to concentrate all activities in areas that are devoid of any existing natural vegetation.

Mr. Jacobs also proposed ways to reduce sewage flow on the property, such as reducing the allowable population at the camp from an allowed 900 to 1,800 to an average of 360 campers and 90 staff. The maximum number of campers that will be allowed under the proposal is 420, and 65 members of the staff will be allowed to stay overnight in the cottages located at the camp.

In doing so, the sewage flow will be reduced from 9,450 gallons per day to 6,800 gallons per day, according to the proposal.

The property’s use will be seasonal, Mr. Grossman read from the decision, with the tennis club operating seven days a week for five months out of the year, and the summer camp will be used for 10 weeks out of the year, or 50 days, during the week. The camp will be closed on weekends and holidays.

On Friday, Mr. Jacobs said getting the ZBA approval was the biggest and most important hurdle. “I feel very gratified that the board made this decision,” he said.

Mr. Jacobs said the Planning Board already has looked at the site plan during the SEQRA review, and his expectation is that when the application goes back in front of the Planning Board, it will be a less difficult process.

But surrounding neighbors of the camp say they are not done fighting Mr. Jacob’s plan to operate as a day camp—something the camp owner said he has been doing already, but under the term “tennis camp.”

When Mr. Grossman finished reading the decision, residents congregated outside of the board room, many with looks of disgust.

“We’ve been fighting this for eight years, so this is a complete disaster,” Jimmy Silber of North Sea said. “We can do an Article 78 procedure, which we’re considering.”

Stu Summit, another Little Fresh Pond resident, said the board’s decision to approve the exchange of one nonconforming use for another only worsens the situation. “You have 60-odd counselors living there 24 hours a day during the most vulnerable time for the lake and for traffic and the noise,” he said, noting that the camp can get loud during the summer. “It’s very disappointing—but it isn’t over.”

Mr. Summit said he expects Mr. Jacobs will experience issues with the site plan when the Planning Board reviews the application.

Part of the site plan, he said, borders the properties of some of the people who have opposed Mr. Jacobs’s plan since the beginning, and they have complained of noise during the day because the play area is right next to their house.

Still, Mr. Jacobs said he understands that people are upset, and that he wants to reach out to them.

“Having our camp in this neighborhood will be a benefit,” he said. “It’s incumbent upon me and the camp to reach out to the neighbors … this is far better than any of the alternatives.”

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This is ONE disfuncitional board,have you watched them on local tv network.who appoints the members I would like the answer.some members look out of it not to mention their wardrobe.sad sad.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Mar 8, 19 4:09 PM
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Mar 8, 19 4:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Mar 8, 19 6:09 PM
Dog, I agree with you on some of the decisions made by the Board. As far as their wardrobes, I think it is their decision.
Joe Friday, just the facts...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Mar 8, 19 8:58 PM
. . . . and the locals will continue to leave this recently man made hell in droves.
By themarlinspike (542), southampton on Mar 10, 19 10:57 AM
The slimy blight of Nassau County politics has clearly infected Southampton. Disgusting, indeed.
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Mar 10, 19 8:41 PM