A large group of residents protested the proposed expansion of a seasonal day camp in North Sea at a public hearing before the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday night, June 2, citing concerns about noise, density, traffic and potential pollution affecting nearby Little Fresh Pond.
Nearly three dozen residents filled the seats in the second-floor room at Town Hall, and approximately two dozen of them stood up to voice their opposition to the application by Glen Cove-based Southampton Day Camp Realty LLC. The firm is seeking a variance to allow the expansion of offerings at the seasonal day camp on nearly 17.3 acres off Majors Path, in the hopes of attracting an enrollment of up to 400 campers during weekdays only, according to town documents.
The campers would arrive at the site between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and depart at around 3:30 p.m., according to Jay Jacobs, the managing partner and CEO of Southampton Day Camp Realty LLC. Also under the plan, Mr. Jacobs said 60 employees would be permitted to live on the grounds.
Currently on site are nearly 13 cottages, according to a copy of the current site plan. There are also tennis courts and a basketball court. The site was used as a tennis club and a day camp, although it won’t be used in that capacity this summer, Mr. Jacobs said. It’s unclear how many employees and campers previously used the site.
Mr. Jacobs bought the property in 2010 from Southampton Racquet Club LLC, which was owned by Millennium Partners, a hotelier firm based in New York City. He said the site had three previous uses: it was a day camp for children, a tennis club, and the cottages on the site were rented out. Mr. Jacobs said he believes all three uses were occurring last summer.
A number of buildings would be renovated as part of the plan. In addition, swimming pools, recreational courts, facilities and playing fields would be added.
According to a document that the applicant filed with the town, the entire property has been used as a sports camp and facility since the 1930s. The current owners maintain that people have stayed overnight in cottages rented out on the property at some point in its past. But it’s not clear when that use stopped: Residents say children haven’t attended overnight camp there for decades, perhaps as long as 40 years.
ZBA Vice Chairman Adam Grossman said the board is charged with two tasks: determining whether the property is a preexisting, nonconforming use, meaning that the day camp use of the site—a use not permitted in a residential zone—existed before zoning was created in Southampton Town; and determining whether the use of the property was abandoned for a period of years, which residents suggest is the case. If so, Mr. Grossman said, the use could be determined to have been lost, meaning the applicant wouldn’t have a case for a preexisting, nonconforming use. Using that criteria, the board will have to determine whether to allow an expansion of the use.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Mr. Grossman said. “It’s a very interesting application.”
The Zoning Board did not make a decision on the application and adjourned the hearing until July 7. The board also voted to give the Town Planning Board lead agency status on the application; that means the Planning Board will review the environmental aspects of the application under the State Environment Quality Review Act.
Wayne D. Bruyn, an attorney from the firm O’Shea, Marcincuk & Bruyn in Southampton, represented the applicant at last week’s public hearing. He said he did not have any comments to add after residents spoke at length about the application.
Many who spoke implored individual board members to consider whether they would like such a project next door to them.
“Think of it if it was your home,” said Susan Yungbluth. “What would you feel about it if it was happening down your road?”
Southampton Day Camp Realty, LLC is affiliated with TLC Kids Group, according to town documents. Mr. Jacobs, the president and CEO of the group, has already overseen several camps, including the Hampton Country Day Camp, which has been in operation for four seasons on Buckskill Road in East Hampton. The North Sea property is zoned for half-acre residential use; Mr. Jacobs said the site is already approved for a 14-lot subdivision.
“That’s an alternate plan that anyone could [do] who buys the property,” Mr. Jacobs said. “It’s done and it’s approved. But that’s not my plan. I’m a camp guy. That’s what I do.”
In Mr. Jacobs’s view, there are three main issues being voiced about the application that he believes he’s already overcome.