By Stephen J. Kotz
Six years ago, a handful of Bridgehampton and Water Mill residents who had learned the basics of sailing at the Mecox Yacht Club asked Southampton Town to help them revive the club by allowing a new non-profit to offer sailing lessons for children at its overgrown site on Bay Lane at the foot of Mecox Pond in Water Mill.
Never mind that the yacht club in question had been a decidedly low-key operation, open to all comers and occupying a simple 12-by-16-foot storage shed with a small porch attached to it. The old club, which once sat at the edge of potato fields, was now surrounded by mansions, whose owners did not want their quiet cul de sac to become a center of summertime activity. So they sued —several times, in fact.
But on Thursday, Kathryn Garvin, an assistant town attorney, told the town board the legal storm has abated, and that the town could move forward with plans to both hold sailing lessons and replace the former “club house,” which is obscured by weeds and collapsing onto itself.
“We’ve been working on this for several years,” said Councilwoman Christine Scalera. “It actually has a long history in litigation and otherwise.”
“Some of the neighbors who lived down there just started getting really nervous,” Ms. Garvin told the board, “because they were afraid it was going to be a yacht club, there were going to be regattas, there were going to be parties and tents and parking all over the place.”
That’s not the case at all, she told the board. Under the aegis of the Parks and Recreation Department, which already allows a limited number of people to store kayaks and other small watercraft at the site, the plan is to now have the town offer sailing lessons in the summer, she said.
“This has been a long, torturous project just to fix up this shed,” she added, noting that the town has received permits from the town Conservation Board and the state Department of Environmental Conservation to replace the building with a new one. The permits were required because most of the 9-acre site is wetlands.
The litigation wasn’t the only stumbling block. Ms. Garvin said town officials were shocked when they sought bids to rebuild the shed, with few contractors even willing to take on the task. The one who offered to take on the job, asked $95,000 to do the job. The town was eventually able to find a prefabricated building for $82,000, she said.
Ms. Scalera, who told her fellow board members the funds would come from a town park reserve fund, said the town had struggled to find a way “to construct this in a way that is fiscally responsible and make it usable for the public.”
Although the board agreed to place a resolution authorizing the expenditure at a future meeting, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman was taken aback at the cost. “In an ideal world, I can imagine the community coming together and banging this out in a couple of days,” he said.
The supervisor also suggested that the lottery system for boat storage be revamped to give more boaters a chance at applying for one of the 18 racks. “Since we are using taxpayer money, we want to make sure we are fair,” he said.
The club apparently was started in the 1910s and remained active into the 1980s.
Julie Burmeister, who summered in Bridgehampton before retiring to her family’s home there, said she learned how to sail at the Mecox Yacht Club in the 1950s. “It was some of the best fun we had in our teenage years,” she said.
Ms. Burmeister, who has been active in the effort to rejuvenate the club said she was hesitant to even call it a club. “The term ‘club’ has gotten a bad name,” she said, adding that it was always open to anyone who paid the modest annual fee.
Although there were once regular races on the pond, Ms. Burmeister said they rarely consisted of more than 10 to 12 boats.
“It goes way back,” she said of the club. “In my lifetime, it’s the fondest of memories.”