The applicant for a large seasonal day camp in North Sea has pulled his plan from review by the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals and is now trying to gain approval from the town’s Planning Board, scaling back the project to try to take advantage of existing zoning rights.
The applicant, Southampton Day Camp Realty LLC, originally sought variances earlier this summer from the ZBA to expand what it maintains is a pre-existing, nonconforming use on a 17.3-acre property off Majors Path in order to create a children’s seasonal day camp there.
That plan prompted a sharp outcry from a number of neighbors who live around nearby Little Fresh Pond. They feared the project will create noise, traffic and negative environmental impacts on both Little Fresh Pond and neighboring Big Fresh Pond. The goal of the camp, which would run through the summer months, is to eventually attract an enrollment of up to 400 campers during weekdays.
Now, Jay Jacobs, the managing partner and CEO of Southampton Day Camp Realty LLC, said he is looking for an approval through a different avenue, adjusting his proposal so that all he’s asking for is renovations and upgrades to existing facilities and buildings on the site. His requests include an upgraded sewage disposal system and using Suffolk County water instead of well water, among other changes.
He still hopes to one day attract an enrollment of 400 campers, he said, but also noted that he was planning for a smaller number of campers in the first few years.
“It’s going before the Planning Board,” Mr. Jacobs said on Tuesday. “It’s just that we’re going to be using the existing facilities first, and any plans for growth will wait a year or two.”
Mr. Jacobs had been seeking a number of additions to the site from the ZBA, including new playing fields for softball, basketball and tennis, four swimming pools surrounded by 13 changing sheds, the renovation of a dining hall that is already there, and the addition of a number of other buildings, according to the site plan on file with the ZBA. There are about 13 unoccupied cottages, tennis courts and a basketball court, a clubhouse, a 1.5-story home, sheds, decks, and a parking lot currently on the property, according to a site plan of the area’s existing conditions.
Mr. Jacobs officially withdrew the ZBA application on August 24, according to a letter submitted by his attorney, Wayne D. Bruyn, of O’Shea, Marcincuk & Bruyn, LLP. A new proposed site plan for the project was filed with the Planning Board that same day, according to Clair Vail, the town’s chief planner.
Ms. Vail said she spoke to a representative of the developer this week, who said the current total square footage of the camp would not increase under the new plan.
Both Planning Board Chairman Dennis Finnerty and ZBA Vice Chairman Adam Grossman said on Tuesday they had no idea the applicant was pulling the plan from the ZBA and instead asking for a Planning Board site plan review. The ZBA application had been scheduled for a public hearing on September 15. The Planning Board was scheduled to discuss a potential environmental review of the former ZBA application today, September 8. The Planning Board will likely have to start from scratch on the new application, Mr. Finnerty said.
It’s possible that the applicant wanted to avoid a controversial and discretionary process that comes with a ZBA review, said Mr. Finnerty. “I guess there’s a lot of controversy around this application,” he said. “They wanted to avoid that. Now it becomes more administrative at the Planning Board.”
Mr. Jacobs said he did not feel he needed variances from the ZBA to go forward with the plan. He said the camp will work within the existing facilities and serve a smaller number of campers than originally anticipated, with the goal of eventually expanding.
“In the ZBA, we were asking for a change in the currently used facility, meaning additions,” he said. “We feel we don’t need to do that at this point, so we need to go to the Planning Board.”
The decision doesn’t sit well with some of the neighbors, who have spent the summer organizing against the plan, creating “Save Little Fresh Pond” signs and flyers. They have also set up a Facebook group page, which has 103 members, and an e-mail account. The homeowners group, the Little Fresh Pond Association, has also recently hired attorneys to represent them, according to John Barona, the president of the organization.
“I don’t really know what his tactic is,” Mr. Barona said. “But I think he knows he can’t go through with his original idea and what he thinks he wanted. I think he’s going to Plan B.”