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Oct 29, 2019 10:51 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Public Hearing For North Sea Tennis Camp Site Plan Brings Opponents Back To The Podium

Southampton Camp & Club near Little Fresh Pond in North Sea.
Oct 29, 2019 12:16 PM

More than a dozen local residents and environmental advocates spoke at the Southampton Town Planning Board meeting last Thursday, October 24, expressing opposition to the Southampton Country Day Camp plan to change the use of a North Sea tennis camp to a summer day camp and tennis club, and to expand operations.

The opposition is not new, as the town has been grappling with the application for about eight years — but locals wanted to reiterate some of the same concerns and point out new issues to Planning Board members as they consider approving the site plan, which is the final approval needed in the application process. It had received approval from the Town Zoning Board of Appeals in March to change the property’s use from one nonconforming use to another.

The camp owner, Jay Jacobs, who is the New York State Democratic Committee chairman, also is looking to add accessory pools and 59,000 square feet of a sports court area with 74 additional parking spaces as part of the site plan application.

The tennis camp, called Southampton Camp & Club, currently has 12 cottages, a cabin, a kitchen and dining hall, a residence, a clubhouse, a basketball court, 10 tennis courts, a swimming pool and parking. The 17-acre property is located in a residential neighborhood just southwest of Little Fresh Pond, the water body that opponents fear would be further polluted if the camp were to expand.

The State Department of Environmental Conservation has deemed Little Fresh Pond a eutrophic water body since 2010, meaning that it has excessive plant and algal growth that is detrimental to marine life.

And its water quality is worsening. Last month, the pond had the “most intense blue-green algae bloom that has ever been recorded on Long Island,” said Dr. Christopher Gobler, a Stony Brook University professor and an expert on local coastal ecosystems who spoke at the meeting to share research.

He added that the recent outbreak at Little Fresh Pond was “three times more intense” than Lake Agawam’s algae bloom one year ago, which was deemed the worst bloom on Long Island at the time.

One point that many speakers brought up, including Dr. Gobler and former Town Trustee Fred Havemeyer, was how surface runoff from the camp is leaching into the pond — an occurrence that the applicant disputes.

Jeff Bragman, an East Hampton Town Board member who is also the attorney for the Little Fresh Pond Association, which opposes the project, told Planning Board members at the hearing that he did not believe the camp owner was doing enough to analyze and identify the project’s environmental impact. He urged the board to request more information from Mr. Jacobs, as is allowed under site plan standards, adding that a failure to do so “would be negligent and reckless on the part of the Planning Board.”

“As a person representing neighbors who oppose the project, I don’t have any burden to prove that the camp caused the blue-green algae outbreak,” Mr. Bragman said. “The applicant has a burden to show you that he is giving due regard to that nearby surface water body that is critically imperiled.”

Other topics of concern included traffic, specifically the lack of adequate turning space for buses when exiting the facility, which leads to safety concerns for youth campers, as well as excessive noise affecting neighbors on Majors Path.

The State Environmental Quality Review Act process had been completed for the application, but several people who spoke reminded the board that the site plan review process is more than just assessing structural layouts and designs — it also involves reviewing surrounding natural features and having the authority to seek more information when needed.

“I just urge you to please use the power that you have,” said Bob DeLuca, president of the Group for the East End. “The SEQRA process is what it is, but it stands in parallel track, not in place of, what it is that the law tells you to do with site plan.”

The board kept the public hearing open and will continue it at the December 12 meeting, Board Chairwoman Jacqui Lofaro announced at the close of the hearing.

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