The Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals declaring that his plan for a day camp in North Sea is only a minor inconvenience and he is confident his camp application will ultimately be approved, Jay Jacobs told Patch Thursday.
The Zoning Board of Appeals ruled March 16 that the proposed site, the former , does not have a preexisting use as a day camp, and therefore opening a day camp there will require a change-of-use variance. This elated opponents of the camp propopal, but the board also decided that the site's use as a tennis club and tennis camp has not been abandoned, as the opponents had asserted. The latter decision was a victory for Jacobs, who owns in East Hampton, among other camps.
Because the North Sea site is in a residential district, the use as a tennis camp/club is nonconforming to zoning. Opponents of the day camp proposal argued that the property's use as a tennis camp was long abandoned, and any grandfathered rights have been forfeited. But the ZBA found that the tennis camp/club was operating right up until it was sold to Jacobs' Southampton Day Camp Realty in 2010. As Jacobs put it Thursday, the decision "means we do exist, can exist and will exist."
Jacobs said he expects the camp to be back on the ZBA agenda as soon as April, though he would not reveal any modifications to the plan or how he will go about convincing the board to grant a variance.
“I’m not going to discuss our strategy; I’ve learned that transparency and candor, which I practiced before, have come back to bite me," he said, citing attacks from camp opponents. “I get quoted by these folks and it's distorted and it's taken out of context.”
At the appropriate time, in front of the board, he will make a full and accurate presentation, he said.
However, he did say he aims to convince residents that the camp will be a good neighbor and is not something to fear. He said the camp will bring jobs, value, cleanup and improvement to the area.
Alternative to a camp, Jacobs could apply to building housing there, in conformance with zoning. But he said he doesn't think that is the best use of the property, and expects many neighbors will agree with him.
While some would like the tennis camp to be a park, he said, "that’s not their right."
Jim Henry, the attorney for the North Sea residents, said on the night the ZBA handed down its decision that Jacobs will have an uphill battle trying to acquire a variance, because the standards for a use variance are strict and expanding a tennis club to a 500-kid camp is a "stretch."
But Jacobs likes his chances. "I am very confident, based on the merits, that what our plans call for, that what we’re looking to do, is something that is acceptable to the town,” he said.