Camps in Liberty Neighborhoods
Summer Camps in Liberty Neighborhoods
In 1987, the Liberty Town Board, with input from the community, adopted a zoning code. One of the requirements of the code was that there could be no more summer camps built in residential neighborhoods; this was also true for many other uses such as grocery stores and gas stations. Because summer camps and other uses no longer conformed to the community’s desires for the neighborhoods, they became non-conforming uses.
Despite this, the Liberty Building Department and the Liberty Planning Board, have repeatedly allowed existing camps in residential neighborhoods to expand at will. In the case of Camp Agudah on Upper Ferndale Road, for instance, there have been at least 10 expansions in the past 10 years.
When a summer camp expands, the neighboring homes lose value. A Sullivan County real estate agent testified at a public hearing in the Spring of 2010, that a house near a camp is worth 30 percent less that the same house not near a camp. It stands to reason that a bigger camp has a greater negative impact on nearby houses. Therefore, when a summer camp is permitted to expand, the result is an erosion of the town’s tax base.
The community has said it doesn’t want more camps in residential neighborhoods. Residents have repeatedly asked the planning board not to allow them to expand. The highest court in the state, the New York State of Appeals, has said that the highest goal of zoning is the elimination of non-conforming uses. Yet in Liberty summer camps – non-conforming uses – continue to expand in residential neighborhoods.
To remedy this, we the undersigned, urge the Liberty Town Board and the Zoning Review Committee, as the zoning update process moves forward, to prohibit or seriously restrict the expansion of non-conforming uses, as many other towns in New York have done with codes that have been repeatedly upheld by the courts.