Village files Hampshire actions

By ASHLEY HELMS

Following continued alleged violations of the Village of Mamaroneck zoning code by Hampshire Country Club, the village has filed an injunction against the club in order to prohibit it from conducting any commercial or recreational activities and place a permanent stop on the club conducting non-member events.

The Village of Mamaroneck has filed two injunctions against Hampshire Country Club, one in village Justice Court and the other in state Supreme Court. If successful, the injunctions will prohibit Hampshire from conducting commercial or recreational activities and put a permanent stop on non-member events.  Photo courtesy Hampshire Country Club

The Village of Mamaroneck has filed two injunctions against Hampshire Country Club, one in village Justice Court and the other in state Supreme Court. If successful, the injunctions will prohibit Hampshire from conducting commercial or recreational activities and put a permanent stop on non-member events.
Photo courtesy Hampshire Country Club

Before the village moved to restrict the private club, critics of Hampshire alleged zoning code violations dating back to this past summer.

Trustee Ilissa Miller, a Dem-ocrat, said filing injunctions were more of a last resort than a first step in trying to mitigate the issues at the club. “They were issued fines and issued notices every step of the way,” Miller said.

The trustee said the situation between the village and the club escalated to a point where an injunction was necessary. The village sent warning letters, follow up notices to those letters and waited for a response from the club. Hampshire either did not respond or did not respond accurately, according to Miller.

According to documents obtained by The Mamaroneck Re-view, two separate cases were filed; one in the Village of Mamaroneck Justice Court and the other with the New York Supreme Court in White Plains.

According to documents su-b-mitted to the Village of Ma-maroneck Justice Court, Ham-pshire failed to obtain a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals to conduct non-member events, which is a requirement for membership clubs operating in the marine recreation zone.

Village Fire Inspector Wil-liam Ciraco submitted an order to remedy to the club on Sept. 21, stating that Hampshire did not have a special permit to hold non-member events, as required by the village. The documents filed in village Justice Court are a continuation of the order to remedy and will most likely result in a fine of an unknown amount paid to the village.

Documents submitted to the state Supreme Court on Nov. 15 state that Hampshire, located at 1107 Cove Road, has failed to file a required not-for-profit IRS Form 990 with the village, failed to provide documentation to the village that the club is owned by not-for-profit Hampshire Club as opposed to Hampshire Recreation, a for-profit entity, and hasn’t obtained a special permit in order to hold non-member events on the premises.

The Supreme Court documents were filed by Village Attorney Charles Goldberger’s firm; McCullough, Goldberger and Staudt, LLP.

A filing in Supreme Court was necessary to prohibit the club from making similar violations in the future; the village Justice Court does not have the necessary authority to issue such an injunction.

Essentially, the violations ou-tlined in the court documents are issues to which club critics and concerned groups, including the Mamaroneck Coastal Environmental Coalition, have attempted to call attention to for months.

Hampshire claims they are the lessee and operator of the club, as opposed to Hampshire Recreation, a for-profit entity, but, according to Supreme Court documents, the club has not provided any confirmation on the matter.

Since 2010, residents have complained that the club has been hosting numerous non-member events on the property, such as receptions, golf outings and dinners, according to Supreme Court documents. Attendees were allegedly bussed onto the property in order to attend the events. If the injunction is successful, there would be a stop on these events.

In order to operate as a non-profit membership club as the village’s marine recreation zone outlines, all of Hampshire’s events must be held for the sole benefit of the members, who are the deciding factor in who is granted membership to the club. According to critics, Hampshire operates as a for-profit enterprise where anyone who pays the required fee can become a member and hold an event at the club. Under those parameters, critics argue all events at Hampshire are, by definition, non-member events, which are only supposed to account for 20 percent of the total number of events, according to the village code.

According to Celia Felsher, president of the Mamaroneck Coastal Environmental Coal-ition—a group of residents pushing for reform at Hampshire Club—if the club can provide documentation that it is, in fact, run by a not-for-profit entity, the first injunction in village Justice Court can be dropped. But, the second injunction in state Supreme Court will most likely remain even if the club provides not-for-profit documentation.

“It pushes owners of the club to sit down with the community and Board of Trustees and see what the right thing is for the property going forward,” Felsher said. “They have to restructure. Even if they get the special permit, we feel that their commercial activities are well above the limit.”

Hampshire Club has about a month to respond to the injunctions, Felsher said, and it is scheduled to discuss a fine with the village in court on Dec. 17.

“From our perspective, it should be cut and dry; they should be fined for prior violations,” Felsher said.

Going forward, the club needs to understand how to do business more effectively in the village, Miller said, and hopefully this will be a learning experience for Hampshire.

Leading up to Election Day this year, Hampshire Club and the future of its property became a contentious campaign issue.

Some residents were concerned with the possibility the club would apply for rezoning in order to construct a high-density condominium complex on its grounds, stemming from a display at a Hampshire open house early this year.

Mayor Norman Rosenblum and Trustee Louis Santoro, both Republicans, said they were unable to comment on the possibility of rezoning due to the advice of legal council, but their challengers in the election, Democrats Clark Neuringer and Kerry Stein, said the incumbents should have been obligated to comment before an election.

Co-owner of Hampshire Co-untry Club Dan Pfeffer, and Rosenblum could not be reached for comment at press time.

Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, declined to comment.

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com