Camp Cory appeals violations

John Christensen
The barn at Camp Cory is part of the expansion where activities since 2018 have raised concerns from neighbors.

The YMCA of Greater Rochester has appealed two notices of violation served on Camp Cory by the Town of Milo Code Enforcement Officer Anthony Validzic after complaints from near neighbors of the camp. Both violations stem from commercial activities at the camp, which is in the town’s “Lakefront Residential” zone. The first was for a private wedding reception; the second was for the Arts Center of Yates County’s Attic Art Sale.

While the specific complainants were not named, at a public hearing at the Milo Zoning Board of Appeals meeting Jan. 28, a large crowd in attendance expressed their objection to the Y advertising Camp Cory and the new day camp barn nationwide as “a rustic wedding venue,” and to uses of the camp for any commercial purpose other than “an overnight and day children’s camp,” as granted them in a 2015 special use permit. 

The board took no action at the public hearing. Its next scheduled meeting is Feb. 25.

Validzic’s own attorney, Edward Brockman, and Milo’s attorney, Robert Foster, both say the uses in the special use permit are concrete, while the YMCA’s attorney, Joe Picciotti, claims they are “accessory uses” extended from the original permits granted to the camp which has been in operation for almost a century.

Lakefront property owner, Barry Brenner, of Fairport, presented a packet of 15 letters signed by multiple neighbors of the camp containing the same language: 

1) We encourage the Code Enforcement Officer, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the Town Planning Board to safeguard the residential character of the lakeside neighborhoods along the East side of Keuka Lake by enforcing residential zoning restrictions and protecting these residential areas from commercial activities.

2) We express deep concerns about any escalation of commercial activities and use beyond what was specifically defined in the use restrictions set forth by the Town of Milo and agreed to by the YMCA for their new facilities at 140 Rt.54.

3) We urge the Zoning Board of Appeals to uphold the use restrictions for said YMCA facilities at 140 Rt.54 and to reject any subsequent attempts by the YMCA to circumvent these restrictions.

To his own letter, Brenner added, “Any escalation of commercial activity near our lake side neighborhoods threatens the residential character of our neighborhoods, the quality of our Keuka Lake experiences, and the value of our lakefront residences.”

Another signer of the letter, near neighbor Larry Ledgerwood, spoke directly to YMCA Chief Strategy Officer Mike Stevens, reminding him of his promise to the camp neighbors at a 2018 Milo Planning Board Meeting that the camp would never be used for any commercial purposes. 

The minutes of that May 8, 2018 meeting bear out Ledgerwood’s statement with this entry: “After a period of discussion, the public was informed that the only use being approved for this application was a Child Overnight Camp and a Summer Day Camp pursuant to Sections 350-18 (D)(5) and 350-18 (D)(6). It was also conveyed that the applicant did not apply for any other type of commercial use to operate at their new lands, which are located within the Lakefront Residential zoning district.”

To this, Stevens did not answer, but silently nodded his head.

Other activities that were raised as objectionable were a “hot yoga class” and a Hobart College fraternity weekend, both occasions where residents complained of loud music and voices blaring over the public address system.

Steve Griffin, CEO of the Finger Lakes Horizon Eonomic Development Center of Yates County, Keuka College President Amy Storey, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Yates County Arlene A. Wilson, as well as Camp Cory board members and long-time camp users, signed their names to another form letter, sent by YMCA expressing support for the camp saying in part,“Especially in the last five years, the leadership of Camp Cory and the YMCA of Greater Rochester has worked with many local Penn Yan and Yates County leaders and organizations to enhance the lives of residents by offering community programs that benefit local families and businesses. Programs such as Family Camp, Women’s Weekend, Chamber networking events, Fall Festival, Arts Shows and school field trips are a few of the specific programs offered in the shoulder season for resident benefit.

"I have personally asked Camp Cory to develop programming that local residents could utilize during their spring and Fall months. Family friendly and youth activities are unfortunately very limited in Yates County and Camp Cory has the ability to help address that shortage."

It is noted that none of the letters of support make specific mention of commercial activities such as wedding receptions or college fraternity weekends.