After 14 years in operation, Brookville has ordered the Sid Jacobson JCC to cease all operations on village property due to zoning law violations, including Camp Jacobson, which hosted 440 campers this summer.
The East Hills-based Jewish Community Center purchased the 15-acre property in Brockville in 2008. Since then, thousands of children have attended their programs.
Previously, the center also ran Bernice Jacobson Day School and Camp in Brockville, which typically served about 30 children at a time. When the village refused to let them increase the classroom space for the 4-year-old, the center returned the program to Sid Jacobson JCC.
JCC permits that were required for renovations in 2021 were denied after a seven-year legal battle with the village. During this process, the village found that zoning laws did not permit the operation of summer camp and daycare center and that JCC programs did not consider religious or educational use entitled to deal with zoning.
About a week after the end of the 2022 summer camp, the village informed the center that it had applied to the state Supreme Court to force them to stop using the property.
Officials from the Joint Coordination Center explained the situation to parents in an email on September 13. They said this change of events left them “extremely confused and disoriented”.
Ross M. Wallenstein, a spokesperson for Sid Jacobson JCC, said in a statement to Blank Slate Media that the center will explore its options.
“It is unfortunate that due to circumstances beyond our control, we will not be able to operate Jacobson Camp in 2023 after 14 wonderful years on the property. We stand by our assertion that camp should be allowed to continue, but that it must follow the dictates of the courts,” he said. In this article, we will explore our options on behalf of the thousands of children and families of the area who have experienced the splendor of Bernice Jacobson Day School and Camp, and the hundreds of young people, teachers, parents and camp professionals who have made our staff so special. ”
Efforts to reach Brockville Village for comment were futile.
According to legal records, a conflict began between Brookville and the JCC over potential renewals.
The Joint Coordination Center submitted a building permit application in March 2014. They sought to expand the facilities on their property and expand the existing corridor. After he was refused, they were asked to apply for a conditional zoning use permit, which they did in May 2014.
The ZBA rejected the JCC’s application in January 2017 without issuing a decision. The JCC filed an immediate appeal in February 2017. (A judgment of a state or municipal agency can be appealed to state courts through a Section 78 proceeding.)
The ZBA issued its ruling in May 2017 and said the proposed use would be detrimental to the region. They added that applicable zoning rules do not allow this as a conditional use.
To respond to the ZBA’s written decision, the JCC filed an amended Section 78 petition of the CPLR in August 2017. The state Supreme Court dismissed the changed petition and effectively dismissed the suit by decision of December 11, 2017. The JCC then lodged an appeal.
ZBA found that JCC programming did not meet the criteria for zoning treatment.
“Although the JCC is a religious organization,” the court filings said, “evidence provided to ZBA supports its determination that the activities and programs offered at Day School and Camp are standard recreational activities offered at any summer camp.”
Additionally, the filings indicate that the evidence supports the ZBA’s conclusion that the JCC camp program is primarily recreational rather than educational.
“Specifically, evidence in the registry established that the campground operates under a children’s camp permit issued by the Nassau County Department of Health and that the activities offered are predominantly of a sporting and recreational nature, for example, sports, swimming, horseback riding and diving,” the court filings said. Furthermore, no evidence has been provided to prove that the staff working in the camp are qualified to teach in the subjects that are part of the regular curriculum.”
She said testimony from owners of neighboring properties supports ZBA’s findings that the JCC’s intended use would be detrimental to the area and its residents.