Neighbors Cry Nay on Horse Farm

Stable is now a ‘mega ranch’ with boarding, lessons, and space for parties
“It’s like Saratoga out in my backyard,” Peter Zamiska told the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Commitee on Monday of Campbell Stables, whose owner wants retroactive approval from the Southampton Town Planning Board for a horse “walker,” among other things. Taylor K. Vecsey

Bridgehampton residents want South­­­ampton Town officials to tighten the reins on the owners of a horse farm who are looking for retroactive planning board approval of work done without permission.

The owners of the Campbell Stables, an 18-stall barn and related structures at 6 West Pond Drive, on the corner of Newlight Lane, are seeking to amend the site plan approved in 2011 to include additional structures and a service road, some of which landed them in South­ampton Town Justice Court on alleged violations of the town code.

Campbell Stables is on an approximately 17.8-acre agricultural reserve, which was carved out during the 2000 mapping of a subdivision to the west of Kellis Pond. Horse farms are a permitted use. Campbell Stables, or Campbell Ranch, which it is called on applications to the planning board, is a limited liability corporation known as Bridge A, owned by Robert Campbell, the founder of B.B.C. International, a leading children’s and athletic footwear design and sourcing company, and his wife, Barbara.

The site plan approved by the planning board includes a barn with 14-foot-square stalls and a second-story hayloft, a 15,000-square-foot indoor riding arena, a second-floor observation room, an outdoor riding ring, a two-story building with tack and storage rooms and a second-story apartment, an accessory equipment/storage barn, manure storage areas, paddock areas, and open farmland. The project was not fully completed until 2015.

Peter Zamiska, who lives to the east on Kellis Pond Lane and has been distributing flyers in opposition to the request to modify the site plan and for a special exception permit, said he had not opposed the original application over seven years ago when it was called a family stable. “I saw over the years, a building I consider to be a mega ranch, the size of which is astonishing,” he said at a planning board hearing last Thursday. Though he called the barn a beautiful building, he said it went from being “a noncommercial enterprise . . . for a son or daughter to learn to ride ponies” to something much more. 

The Campbell Stables website has information on private and group lessons with Bobby Ginsberg, a well-known hunter-jumper trainer, as well as on year-round and seasonal boarding for horses. European show horses are listed for sale and lease, and the property is available for private parties.

As approved, the barn is to have up to 24 horses, based on the property’s acreage. The owners are now asking permission to board five additional horses in a temporary tent between June 1 and Sept. 30, the height of the show season on the East End.

Based on the formula in the code, according to the applicants’ attorney at the  hearing last Thursday, the stables can have more horses thanks to an additional 2.6 acres of agricultural reserve her clients own across the street to the south. The town code is silent on whether the acreage has to be contiguous, a town attorney told the planning board. Additional paddocks on the larger agricultural reserve and fencing on the perimeter of the 2.6 acres are also proposed.

According to Kieran Pape Murphree of Burke & Sullivan, who is representing the owners, and a barn manager who spoke at the hearing, the tent had been up during a previous summer. While it is not there now, another structure is. The application also includes a request to retain a circular-roofed building with a horse “walker” inside, taking up about 50 square feet, on the northwest corner of the acreage. Ms. Murphree admitted it was built without a permit. Work completed beyond what was approved, Mr. Zamiska said, is “a very disheartening way to treat our board, our town, our neighbors, and our neighborhood.’

The application asks approval to keep the service road in use along the property line on Newlight Lane, which provides access to a relocated manure Dumpster. “Did it occur to you that you’re moving it closer to the neighboring property?” Dennis Finnerty, the planning board chairman, said, of the Dumpster. Ms. Murphree said her clients wanted to have it well separated from riding activity, and, she added, it conforms to required setbacks.

Tara S. Hakimi, an attorney with the Adam Miller Group, a Bridgehampton firm representing two owners of property on the northwest side of the stables, said her clients object to the location of the new structures. “Why is it they have to go toward the neighbors to the north and the west?” she asked, adding that there is a vacant piece of land to the east that could be used.

One of her clients, Fred Brettschneider, who lives at 143 Newlight Lane, directly to the west, said in a letter to the board that while he was concerned that the additional road and buildings increase the project’s density, he was most focused on the manure Dumpster. “I do not want it located anywhere near our property for several reasons,” he said, mentioning smell, increased traffic, and that it could exacerbate his daughter’s allergies.

Mr. Zamiska shared his concerns with the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee during its meeting on Monday night. “It’s like Saratoga out in my backyard,” he said, adding that while horse farms are allowed on preserved farmland, he did not feel the use fit “the spirit of the law,” which was intended to preserve land for agriculture. The town has over the last two years been purchasing what are called enhanced development rights, which prevent preserved property from being used for anything other than food production.

Mr. Zamiska encouraged community members to write the planning board or attend the next public hearing to object to the requests. The citizens committee, which fought against a recently proposed mixed commercial and residential project called Bridgehampton Gateway, in part out of concern for Kellis Pond, also voted to send a letter to the planning board in opposition.

The planning board adjourned the hearing until March 23 at 6 p.m., and agreed to accept written comment beyond that. Ms. Murphree, however, objected. “That’s a long time and summer is coming up,” she said.