Planning Commission splits on summer camp

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 13, 2007

COURTLAND—When Southampton’s Board of Supervisors considers in December whether to approve a proposal for a summer youth camp, it will do so without a recommendation from its Planning Commission.

After delaying for a month a vote on whether to recommend a conditional use permit for Camp Oasis near Ivor, the commission was evenly split Thursday night on the issue.

With Commissioner Keith Tennessee absent, members Alan W. Edwards, Douglas A. Chesson, Michael G. Drake and J. Michael Mann voted to recommend against allowing the permit.

Commissioners Pete Braham, Freeman J. Harrell, Dallas O. Jones and Oliver Parker opposed the motion, thereby tying the vote.

&uot;I admire your passion and your mission,&uot; said Commissioner Chesson, who made the motion to deny the permit.

Chesson, who is the director of the nearby Airfield 4-H Educational Center, abstained from a similar vote last month, but chose not to do so Thursday, noting that commissioners had talked about his situation at the end of the October meeting and concluded that his was not a direct conflict of interest.

As planners began to consider the matter Thursday, he presented copies of a petition that he said included the names of more than 90 people from the area who opposed the youth camp proposal.

&uot;Given what I have sensed in my region, it would be difficult to support this under any condition,&uot; he said in making the motion to deny a use permit to Richard and Diane Warren and their son Jonathan, owners of the 75-acre property on Ivor Road.

Last month planners asked Richard Warren for more information about his plans for the property during the nine to 10 months each year when summer camp would not be in session.

Warren submitted an updated proposal and spoke during Thursday’s meeting.

Among the potential off-season uses he suggested were an after-school program, weekend enrichment programs in the arts, mentoring programs and community and private functions such as weddings, family reunions and retreats.

Later, there would be the possibility of using the camp’s recreational facilities for midget football, Little League baseball and softball and tennis competitions, he said.

Though the summer camp would be open to youth from any locality, the off-season activities would be aimed primarily at Southampton kids, Warren said.

Explaining that he had lived in the county until he turned 18 and joined the Marine Corps, Warren told commissioners, &uot;I’ve come back home to do something that I did not have for myself when I was growing up.&uot;

The camp &uot;would be something the community could be proud of,&uot; he said.

Dallas Jones, who serves on the Planning Commission and as chairman of the Board of Supervisors, pointed out the sparse opportunities youth in Southampton have for recreation.

&uot;Once this gets off the ground, it ought to be pretty good for kids,&uot;

he said. &uot;I would have to say this is something good.&uot;