Cochecton summer camp rules

LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — Determined to benefit from past oversights and mistakes made by neighboring towns, the Cochecton Town Board continued refinement of a draft summer camp/private school zoning ordinance at its December 28 year-end meeting. Assisting the town board in that task were town attorney Karen Mannino, planning consultant Tom Shepstone and members of the town planning board which, at the outset, advised the town board it was of the unanimous opinion that summer camps should not be permitted in Cochecton.

When the planning board realized that the town board intends to develop a zoning ordinance designed to address problematic summer camp situations experienced by neighboring towns, it enthusiastically pointed out some of the more common pitfalls: insufficient parking for buses and camp visitors (especially during homecoming events); excessive noise from public address systems, games and athletic competitions; inadequate refuse collection; inadequate, overcrowded and unsafe bunkhouses; and substandard wastewater treatment facilities.

Although the draft ordinance already recognizes most of these issues, Mannino and Shepstone sought not just to remedy them after the fact but to forestall them in the first place. This they did by establishing standards for site plans that include a minimum 25-acre lot requirement; minimum 200-foot setbacks from public roads and surrounding properties; maximum 40% lot development (buildings and facilities); a bunkhouse occupancy limit of 10 campers; prohibiting use of basement areas as sleeping quarters; requiring swimming pools, sport courts and baseball diamonds to be located in the center of the site and not on its perimeters; requiring two separate parking lots, one for regular daily use of campers and camp staff, to be not less than 1.5 acres for each 25 acres of property, and a second lot to accommodate overflow parking for parental visits and special events open to the general public; a bus loading/unloading zone; and specifications for refuse containment and collection.

Town code enforcement officer Greg Semenetz urged requirement of an annual operating license that could be denied if a camp failed to comply with any provision of the zoning ordinance. To that, Mannino urged addition of a tax re-levy provision that would allow the town to recoup costs incurred in site cleanup.

The board decided that the 25-acre minimum lot requirement made location of summer camps most practical in the town’s rural districts, which comprise all areas not currently designated as hamlet, agricultural, or business districts and are indicated on the town’s zoning map in yellow. The zoning map is in the town hall boardroom and can be viewed by the public during town hall hours, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., holidays excepted.

As the meeting neared adjournment, planning board member Neil Halloran, who had arrived too late to contribute his thoughts, presented them in writing for review by the town board, Mannino and Shepstone. A planning board meeting followed immediately after the town board meeting, where Halloran said he favored requirement of an escrow in the case of tax-exempt camps.


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