A plan to allow overnight guests in semipermanent tents on the grounds of the USDAN Summer Camp for the Arts in Wheatley Heights is getting pushback from its neighbors.

Camp officials are seeking a special-use permit from the Huntington Town Zoning Board of Appeals to add 70 sites to its grounds for camping use.

USDAN’s plan calls for guests to have the opportunity to spend the day in classes focused on art and nature and then stay overnight on the grounds “glamping,” an industry name for a style of camping with amenities. They are asking for 70 tents, which will be constructed of canvas on 20-by-12-foot wooden platforms and will feature a twin- or queen-size bed with linens. Officials said that to start about seven tents will be constructed.

USDAN executive director Lauren Brandt Schloss said the new program is a way to raise money for more scholarships for lower- and middle-income children.

“We looked at a number of options and we really loved this option because it’s completely aligned with what USDAN is and what USDAN’s mission is,” Brandt Schloss said.

A weekend stay at the camp will cost about $1,000, including the tent and the programming.

Michael Rosedale, whose backyard abuts the camp, said that while he supports the mission of the day camp he has organized opposition to the latest plan, including a petition with more than 700 names. Opponents have expressed concerns about fire, the burden on the water system and fears that people who are not campers may stray into neighboring yards and streets through the woods.

“My goal is to say there are some legitimate concerns of the community,” Rosedale said. “We’ve always been supportive of the camp, but this is changing the nature of the camp, which is a concern.”

USDAN, which opened in 1968, operates as an eight-week summer day camp and counts singer Mariah Carey and actor Lisa Gaye Hamilton among its alumnae. The 140-acre property on Colonial Springs Road is owned by United Jewish Appeal Federation of Jewish Philanthropies New York.

USDAN officials said no trees will be cut down, only the clearing of invasive species. Monitored security cameras will be used and fencing will be installed where appropriate. There will be no water or electricity at the tent sites. The season would be from March 15 to Nov. 15.

While coming to the facility for an overnight program is open to the public, Brandt Schloss said she believes the “glampers” will be drawn from the 40,000 alumni, their family and friends, former staff and people who are affiliated with the community and program. 

Joe Levy, chief operating officer of USDAN, said any guest would be required to go through the same booking process to secure overnight accommodations: credit card information, identification and a security deposit.

Town officials said USDAN officials applied last year to the planning department to build 70 glamping units. The application was denied, and the applicant told to apply to the ZBA for a special-use permit under Huntington’s camping code. 

A ZBA hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. April 7 at Town Hall.


published 2022-04-09 18:03:16