The Little Fresh Pond Association, a group of neighbors who have opposed a proposed summer day camp for kids in North Sea for the past year and a half, this week asked the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals to throw out a December decision allowing a pool and other amenities to be built on the property, currently a tennis camp.
In a letter to the board, the association asked the ZBA to vacate its December decision allowing tennis camp owner Jay Jacobs to add a swimming pool, playground and sports court for kids to his 17.4-acre property on Little Fresh Pond in North Sea without a variance.
ZBA Chairman Adam Grossman stood behind the board’s decision on Monday and said that if the group wanted to challenge the determination, it should do so by filing an Article 78 lawsuit. Such lawsuits are a common mechanism to challenge a municipal board’s decision.
After learning about the Little Fresh Pond Association’s plea this week, Mr. Jacobs said he feels harassed by the group’s actions.
“All of the upset and difficulty is really about a group of people who want to retain exclusive use of an under-used piece of property by denying us our lawful right to use it as the law permits us to use it,” Mr. Jacobs said. “Not for nothing, I’m running a children’s tennis day camp and tennis club for members. It’s not something questionable where people would say ‘Oh my God, I’m putting a strip club on Majors Path.’”
Furthermore, Mr. Jacobs said that neighbors had trespassed at the camp and “identified themselves as representatives of the town conservancy looking to appraise the property’s value. This is getting to be, at this point, a case of harassment.”
But Little Fresh Pond Association President John Barona and Vice President Foster Maer denied that anyone had trespassed on the property.
The application in question was secondary to Mr. Jacobs’s primary application seeking a change of use variance, from one pre-existing, non-conforming use, the tennis camp, to a day camp. The change of use application will be before the ZBA again on April 18.
Not only does the group of neighbors see the additions approved by the ZBA as a slow, piecemeal change from a tennis camp to Mr. Jacobs’s desired day camp, but they argue that Mr. Jacobs misled the board by omitting the addition of a bathhouse from his application and that he allegedly started renovating a residential building before the application was approved.
Mr. Grossman said that while he wouldn’t get into the contents of the letter, there was no support to reconsider the board’s decision. “We rarely re-open applications,” he said. “The only reason to re-open an application would be to make a correction, or if there were a change of circumstance that would justify reconsidering the determination, but these cases are extremely rare.”
The ZBA decided on Thursday, December 20, that the proposed changes were acceptable customary accessory structures to the camp’s tennis courts, meaning that the additions would complement the property. As a result, no further ZBA action will be necessary on those aspects of the site’s development.
In their letter to the ZBA, members of the Little Fresh Pond Association assert that Mr. Jacobs and Southampton Day Camp Realty tried to “covertly reconstruct one or more residences” and wrote that the company’s “brazen attempt to subvert this board’s lawful process must not be tolerated. SDCR failed to acknowledge its legal obligation to provide a bathhouse as part of its plans for its proposed pool, misled this board as to critical facts this board then relied upon in its decision, and covertly tried to convert a residential building into a bathhouse without lawful permission. Each one of these misdeeds provides compelling justification to vacate the decision.”
On December 18, Southampton Town code enforcement officers issued a stop work order to the camp after a neighbor saw work going on at a cottage. According to the order, “A sizable renovation, including electric and plumbing was being performed without permits…”
Southampton Town Chief Investigator David Betts said the work being done was substantial enough to require permits. “If you have to alter the structural elements of a building, then you need a permit,” he said. Mr. Jacobs’s attorney, Wayne Bruyn of O’Shea, Marcincuk and Bruyn LLP, said his client didn’t think he needed a building permit.
On Monday, Mr. Jacobs said that his caretakers were making internal renovations, repairs and cleaning up mold and other issues in a building that had been damaged by Superstorm Sandy. “Whatever renovations we make that need a building permit, we will get them,” Mr. Jacobs said. “What does not need a building permit anywhere else, we will undertake without a permit. We will follow the law. We always have.”