No decision on youth camp

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2007

COURTLAND—Four years later, the Southampton County Planning Commission is still unsure what to think about a proposal to build a youth camp near Ivor.

After a lengthy question-and-answer session on Thursday with the man who wants to build the facility, planners came to the same conclusion about it that they did when he first raised the idea in 2003: They put off their decision.

Only one citizen actually stood to oppose the camp. Commissioners had their own reservations, though, about the plans presented to them by Richard P. Warren for a residential summer camp for youth that he hopes to open on a 75-acre property off of Route 616, south of Ivor.

&uot;I think it’s a noble gesture, but if I lived in the community, I wouldn’t want it,&uot; Planning Commission Chairman Alan W. Edwards said of the proposal. &uot;From what I’ve heard, I don’t know exactly what is going to go on there.&uot;

Edwards and other commissioners closely questioned Warren and his son Jonathan about their plans for the property during the off-season.

The Warrens told commissioners they would operate the residential camp for eight or nine weeks during the summer, and their application for a conditional use permit to develop the facility gave a number of potential uses for the property during the remaining weeks of the year.

Among those potential off-season uses are before- and after-school programs, weekend enrichment programs for area youth and private functions, including weddings, family reunions and retreats.

During his presentation at Thursday’s public hearing, Richard Warren also put forward wedding and baby showers and sports clinics as potential non-residential uses for the camp. With proper supervision and subject to scheduling, youth groups also would be able to use the recreational facilities available at the camp.

Under questioning, he explicitly ruled out parties and concerts as possibilities. &uot;Not on MY property,&uot; he replied.

Despite Warren’s assurances, members of the Planning Commission continued to profess confusion about his plans.

&uot;My biggest concern is not knowing what is going to happen once those nine weeks (in the summer) are up,&uot; said Commissioner Oliver J. Parker. &uot;It’s not clear to the community, and it’s not clear to the board.&uot;

Commissioner J. Michael Mann said he wished the facility were affiliated with some non-profit organization. Such an affiliation would help ensure that camp continues to be maintained and that there is a viable plan for how it could continue operation when its founder dies.

Affiliation with a respected non-profit group also would give the county some assurance regarding potential uses of the property, he indicated. &uot;I want to be sure that the camp requires clothes.&uot;

Warren tried to reassure planners regarding his intentions. He noted his success running a church-sponsored day camp on New York’s Long Island for the past 10 years. He told them he would be strictly regulated by the American Camp Association, from which he hopes to obtain certification.

He even appealed to them as a native of the county. &uot;My time should be here, where I was born and raised,&uot; he said.

After Commissioner Mann rescinded a motion he had made to deny the application, the group finally agreed by a 7-0 vote to postpone consideration until next month.