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Dec 9, 2016 11:59 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Opponents Argue Against North Sea Camp Proposal At Planning Board Hearing

More than 80 people attended the recent public hearing on the change of use proposal of a camp near Little Fresh Pond.  JEN NEWMAN
Dec 14, 2016 10:14 AM

Opponents of a North Sea day camp are continuing to demand that the Southampton Town Planning Board reject a proposed zoning change that they say would allow the facility to sidestep lawsuits challenging its right to operate in their residential neighborhood.

The board will have a second public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement for the change of zone request on January 26 and will accept written comments from the community until that hearing, according to Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty.

Southampton Country Day Camp is requesting a change of use from “tennis club and tennis camp” to a “tennis club and day camp.” The minor rewording would permit all of the activities already being offered at the facility—including a day camp, as well as tennis, swimming and other sports—and would sidestep challenges in the courts from opponents who argue that the change of use will increase the number of campers, creating more noise and diminishing the water quality of the pond.

Alissa Dunkirk, who has two children who attend the camp, argued that the homes surrounding Little Fresh Pond do not all have updated septic systems, which are much closer to the pond than the camp is—and argued that the pond is never used by campers. “My kid has been in the camp since they’ve opened,” she said. “They’ve never seen the lake. Not once.”

Her young daughter, Aubrey, also spoke. “If you shut down the camp, where will we go?” she asked the board. “I really like the camp. I feel like I’m safe there.

“If the neighbors don’t like it, how about they just move?” she added. If the zoning change is approved, it would also allow for modifications to the 17.28-acre property near Little Fresh Pond, which would include updates to the facilities, like new decks and sheds, as well as the widening of the existing interior driveway in order to give additional room for buses to turn.

There were approximately 80 community members in attendance at a December 8 public hearing, with a mix of supporters and opponents of the camp’s proposal. Those who were in favor of the plans wore large blue buttons that read “support the camp,” while those opposed had large red signs stating “save Little Fresh Pond.”

Jay Jacobs, who owns the North Sea facility, recently said if the modifications were made, there would be an increase in campers. He said this year the camp had an average of 216 to 280 children attend the seasonal 18-week day camp. “We would envision going up, probably, to 380,” Mr. Jacobs said. “That doesn’t mean more buses—we could fill buses that were coming in partially full and fill up those seats. That’s not going to impact traffic.”

Mr. Finnerty noted last month that there are currently no limits on how many people can be at the facility in the town code.

However, Jimmy Silber, the vice president of the Little Fresh Pond Association, said the number of campers is an important issue for the association, which has led opposition to the proposal. He cited a 2012 Zoning Board Of Appeals decision which found that the camp needed a special variance for its proposed “day camp” use.

“We find persuasive the analysis that the property, in its existing state and previously, is designed and/or arranged for use as a tennis club, and not a day camp,” Zoning Board officials wrote in 2012.

“The baseline that we should be looking at is what occurred in 2012 with 40 adults and 10 to 20 children,” Mr. Silber said. “That’s not the case now. When you’re saying that the camp is only going to increase, they’ve already increased in violation.”

Lucy Dunne, co-chair of the North Sea Citizens Advisory Committee, echoed Mr. Silber's numbers arguments. “There’s a lot of concern from the community of what it’s going to be down the road,” she said, referring to possible increased attendance. “If it was going to stay this size, I think there would be less problems. With any increase, it’s going to affect more people.”

VHB Engineering, Surveying and Landscape Architecture, who prepared the study, wrote in the document that the environmental impacts of the proposal would not be “significant.”

“The data collected also shows that the surface water elevation of Little Fresh Pond is higher than the groundwater elevations of all the monitoring wells installed as part of the investigation,” the firm wrote in the study. “Overall, no significant adverse impacts upon groundwater resources, including groundwater-related impacts to Little Fresh Pond, are expected to result upon implementation of the proposed action.”

However, Connecticut-based groundwater and environmental engineering services firm, Leggette, Brashears and Graham—hired by the Little Fresh Pond Association—questioned the findings of the DEIS at the public hearing.

John Zbell, an associate in that firm, spoke at the hearing and challenged the document’s claim that the pond will not be affected by the camp based on its higher elevation. According to Mr. Zbell, most of the four testings completed for the DEIS were taken off season when the camp was not in operation.

“That, again, is significant because that doesn’t represent periods—with the possible exception of one—where the camp was actually active and waste was being discharged by these systems,” he said at the hearing.

“I think that it was pretty obvious that a lot of the consultants that worked for the camp did a really phony job at assessing things,” Mr. Silber said. “I think it was clear from all of our expert’s testimony that there’s tremendous risks.”

Mr. Silber also noted that he felt there were issues with the limited sight distances for the buses leaving the camp, as well as possible traffic and noise impacts.

After public input is collected and a final environmental impact statement is drafted and adopted, the board will issue a findings statement based on the public input, according to Mr. Finnerty. The applicant, Mr. Jacobs, would still need to submit a site plan, which would be the subject of further public hearings.

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Hamptonites' faces seem angrier and angrier in every article's photos. Continued NIMBYism.
By Mouthampton (419), Southampton on Dec 9, 16 1:41 PM
How about putting it next to your house-sound good?
By East End 2 (144), Southampton on Dec 9, 16 6:21 PM
When ones' way of life is being changed , not for the better and against ones' will, peoplel get pissed.
By bigfresh (4311), north sea on Dec 9, 16 2:56 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ship the kids to Mastic then.
By Mouthampton (419), Southampton on Dec 9, 16 3:23 PM
Mr Jacobs' offers free camp admission to the local , year round children who live close to the camp ....
By toes in the water (815), southampton on Dec 14, 16 6:54 AM
Suffolk Designer Lighting, Tent Sale, Renovation Sample Sale