Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs said officials in East Hampton Town should not be allowed to determine how many people occupy a house and that the concept of “family” will be challenged in a case of alleged overcrowding involving counselors at a day camp.
Jacobs is a main shareholder and managing partner in the Hampton Country Day Camp, which owns the house on Ocean Boulevard where counselors live for free. East Hampton ordinance enforcement officers said they found 61 code violations on Aug. 5 during an inspection of the premises, including overcrowding, using a single-family house as a dormitory and not having a certificate of occupancy.
A conference with attorneys for both sides is to be held Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Riverhead. Town officials are seeking a restraining order to prevent the single-family dwelling from being used as a dormitory for camp counselors.
But Jacobs — who has no personal liability in the case after he was removed as a defendant and replaced by the day camp — said East Hampton officials will be challenged in court on what constitutes a “family” living there.
He said that because he owns the house and the counselors live there for free, only he should be able to determine how many people live there.
“It’s a huge house, but the town wants us to adhere to the local law that only four people can live there, but we say that’s unconstitutional,” Jacobs said in an interview last week. “This isn’t a rental, so who’s to say how many people I can have in my house? If that was allowed, thousands of people would have to empty out of [houses in] East Hampton.”
Town officials have said the 2,940-square-foot structure is to be used as a four-bedroom dwelling for a single family, but 25 adults were living in the eight-bedroom, dormitory-style house when officials inspected it last summer.
Jacobs said eight counselors now live in the house and that he purchased the home with its current design. He said no alterations were made and that most of the town’s code-violation allegations are unfounded.
Jacobs added that in Supreme Court, where the restraining order portion of the case is to be heard (the criminal charges are being handled in East Hampton Town Justice Court), the defense will argue the meaning of “family” to show there should be no limit placed on how many people can live in the house.
Town officials said the house should have no more than four occupants because it has four bedrooms and that, according to the state building code, each resident must have 50 square feet of living space. Jacobs said eight counselors live in the house.
“I used the [state] health department’s guidelines of 30 square feet [of living space] for a camp building — that’s what it is,” Jacobs said. “I’m prepared to adhere to the 50 square feet.”
When asked to comment on the case Monday, town attorney Michael Sendlenski said, “We don’t comment on pending litigation.”