Woodbridge neighbors fight plan to extend JCC pool hours

WOODBRIDGE >> The Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven and its residential neighbors are in such a bitter battle over the JCC’s application for longer outdoor camp pool hours — including the addition of weekends — that Town Plan and Zoning Commission Chairman Jeffrey M. Kaufman told both parties at a meeting Monday night they were “acting like a bunch of 6-year-olds.”

Kaufman asked them to talk to each other and work it out, rather than pretending to talk. The TPZC continued the public hearing until its April 4 meeting, and no decision was made.

About a dozen neighbors of the outdoor camp pool were at the hearing to object to the JCC’s request for modifications to the special permit for use of the day camp pool.

The JCC, on Amity Road, wants to extend outdoor pool hours until dusk during the week, as well as on weekends until dusk, so it can offer members a weekend pool club of sorts, intended for families who can’t afford a backyard pool or traditional full-timer pool club membership, but want “fun in the sun,” according to JCC Director Shelley Gans.

A few spoke in favor of the application, including one woman who said she and her husband work all week and don’t have time to lounge at a full-time pool club nor the money to join, but she would like to take her kids to a pool on weekends.

Gans came with few details in the request but, when pressed, said membership in the weekend pool club would be limited probably to about 50 families, which she estimated to be 200 people.

“The sound of young people splashing in the water is what people can expect,” Gans said. She said the request to use the camp pool has come from many members through the years and that a gathering of families on weekends wouldn’t be nearly as noisy as campers. She said it would mainly be people relaxing by the pool.

“It’s a mellow setting — a pretty quiet, chill atmosphere,” she said.

Shady Lane resident Jay Charkow said he’s sure the JCC has good intentions, but “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and if the plan is approved, “our neighborhood will become hell.”

Gans’ proposal was criticized as vague and inconsistent by both board members and residents. She also took heat for the JCC advertising the new 12-week weekend pool club before getting approval. Currently, the facility only has approval to keep the camp pool open until 4:30 p.m. weekdays.

It was zoning officials who notified JCC officials they would need a special permit after the advertisement was noticed.

JCC neighbors launched strongly worded arguments against any expanded use, claiming the JCC already has failed to live up to promises made when it first opened, and has breached its current permit by reducing a buffer from 200 feet to about 100 feet and cutting down trees on that buffer.

Residents on Shady Lane and beyond said the noise from the pool area is already unbearable and expanded hours would create even more noise and undermine their quality of life, disrupt the character of the neighborhood and decrease property values.

Yang Wu, whose property abuts the JCC near the camp pool area, said he appreciates the JCC’s desire to wants to open the pool on weekends to promote family values, but then asked, “If I can’t sit in my backyard and enjoy my weekend, where are my family values?”

Longtime residents Sheila and Lawrence Wartel were among those who voiced strong objection to the request.

Lawrence Wartel called the JCC a “moving target,” and said they “waffle.” He told TPZC members that residents are looking for their protection because they moved to Woodbridge for a “certain lifestyle.”

He asked the hearing be continued because two weeks from the time of the application was not enough notice for neighbors to hire a lawyer to represent them.