By ASHLEY HELMS
With beach clubs in the Village of Mamaroneck at the center of discourse and heated debate lately, residents recently took the opportunity to sound-off on what they feel are blatant zoning code violations at Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club.
Concerned residents filled the village courtroom to capacity during a Dec. 6 Zoning Board of Appeals meeting to protest Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club’s alleged zoning code violations. They were challenging Building Inspector Bill Gerety’s determination in April that an amended site plan application to build a new yacht building at the club was zoning compliant.
In July, the Shore Acres Property Owners Association issued a letter to the village Planning Board saying it found a number of violations to the state Environmental Quality Review Act and village zoning code within Beach and Yacht Club’s amended site plan for the new yacht building. Regarding the plans, SAPOA claimed the club violated fire and emergency service codes, parking codes, traffic codes, sewage regulations and will create visual impact changes to Mamaroneck Harbor.
Opponents of the club’s operations state that Beach and Yacht is a for-profit enterprise that, essentially, has become a catering hall for weddings and bar mitzvahs provided to anyone who is interested and can pay a fee to the club to hold an event. Some residents also find fault with a private tennis shop operating on the club’s grounds that is open to the public as well as the club allowing people to take tennis lessons without being a member.
According to village code, clubs residing within the marine recreation zone, such as Beach and Yacht Club, must operate as a not-for-profit membership club in which events are held for the sole benefit of the members, who are the determining factor in who is granted membership to the club.
Membership clubs in the marine recreation zone are permitted to hold non-member events, but they may not exceed 20 percent of the total number of events held at the club. Critics say, given the nature of the way Beach and Yacht determines membership, virtually every event held at the club could be seen as a non-member event.
The club is also required to file an IRS 990 form with the village in order to operate as a non-profit club, as outlined in local zoning codes. The club filed the form in 2012, but has not since.
Lisa Rosenshein, one of the club’s owners, said Beach and Yacht operates legally within the village’s marine recreation zone and any events hosted on club grounds are, in fact, for the benefit of its members. Opponents of the club have blown issues out of proportion, according to Rosenshein.
“Listening to their crows, you’d think the club was running a nuclear reactor or brothel and not just allowing a tennis pro to make a profit,” Rosenshein said.
Down to 170 members from 300 a few years ago, Rosenshein said the club stays afloat financially due to cash advances from the Rosenshein family’s pockets. The club nor the Rosenshein family make a profit, she said, and all of the club’s activities benefit the members.
One consolidated Beach and Yacht Club account, which takes in any money the club receives from services provided as well as money from the Rosenshein family used to subsidize the club, feeds into a two-entity account for payroll and day-to-day or extraordinary expenses, according to Rosenshein.
Robin Kramer, member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, questioned Rosenshein about the club’s accounts and financial processes.
“So if all the money comes in from the revenues into the two-entity account of the club, you just attribute some to one entity and attribute some to the other for all kinds of purposes?” Kramer said.
Rosenshein said she inherited the company’s bookkeeping this way, which dates back to the 1950s. The consolidated account that takes in any revenues and disperses them to cover expenses has a tax identification number under the name of Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Inc., a non-profit, according to Rosenshein.
“It’s an unorthodox business structure; we acknowledge that,” Rosenshein said. “But [the critics] are not the United States tax court or the IRS.”
Residents of Shore Acres, along with members of SAPOA, were not convinced.
Lorna Waitt, a Shore Acres resident, created a timetable of vehicles that can be seen coming and going from Beach and Yacht Club’s parking lot that she provided to members of the Zoning Board. The activity was recorded with a small camera facing the parking lot that would snap photos and provide a time stamp when there was vehicular movement in the parking lot.
The resident said cars were seen coming and going at hours such as 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. She also said that, when the club holds an event, its parking lot fills up and cars back up onto nearby residential streets in order to park.
“The traffic is far away from what it would be for a private club. I’ve seen people walking over to the club for events,” Waitt said.
Gabrielle Cohen, a SAPOA member, said when she researched Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht on the Internet, wedding vendors, including TheKnot.com, list the club as a wedding venue. According to Cohen, based on comments on the website, there have been at least seven weddings at the club since May. Cohen assumes these weddings were for non-members.
“Mamaroneck Beach and Ya-cht is advertising to a mass audience focusing on weddings,” Cohen said.
Mamaroneck Beach and Yacht Club has been in the midst of renewed controversy since this summer, with village residents paying close attention to the club’s operations.
In early August, Mam-aro-neck-based environmental gr-oup Save the Sound discovered a force-main sewer line break at the club that leaked an unknown amount of raw sewage into Long Island Sound. Water samples taken by the non-profit environmental group found fecal coliform levels to be more than 300 times higher than the state Department of Environmental Conservation water quality criteria, according to Save the Sound.