The Southampton Village Trustees on Thursday amended a local law prohibiting commercial enterprises on village beaches to allow for a single surf camp to operate under strict municipal supervision.
The amendment, which was approved unanimously on Thursday night following a public hearing and closed-door executive session meeting, authorizes the village to issue one license for a surf school—which would teach ocean swimming and surfing—on a village beach. In order to qualify, the school would have to comply with several regulations outlined by the village in terms of size, dates and times of operation. The regulations have not yet been established.
The amendment was sparked due to the success of one local surfer who has been operating a small camp on the beaches for the past several years. Last year, however, the Flying Point Surf Camp exploded, and at times anywhere from 60 to 80 students were being given lessons at one time. The increased influx of people on the beach upset several local residents, who said their right to the beach and parking lot has been hindered by the business.
Several village residents opposed the amendment on Thursday, citing safety, density, parking, and legal concerns. Many people who spoke at the public hearing said there was no way for the village to be able to control such an enterprise, and that it would open a “Pandora’s Box” in terms of beach businesses. People were also concerned that the village was opening itself up to lawsuits if people—either a participant in the camp or a local—was injured.
At the hearing, several trustees said they were in favor of the amendment because of the importance of teaching ocean safety to children. They also added that it would take some time to establish guidelines to govern the ordinance and that a surf camp would not be opening tomorrow.
“This has been going on for a long time and last year it exploded,” Village Mayor Mark Epley said during the hearing. “The last thing I am ever going to do is put something in place that will jeopardize my right to go down there with my family. We will put rules and regulations in place and do this in a location that protects the safety of the kids and everyone involved.”