Tag Archive | "kim covell"

Lauer’s Plans For Horse Farm Move Ahead

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By Claire Walla

Sag Harbor resident and “Today Show” host Matt Lauer is one step closer to building a horse farm on a 40-acre piece of land off Deerfield Road in Water Mill.

At a meeting last Thursday, May 24, the Southampton Town Planning Board officially closed the public hearing regarding the proposed Edge of Woods Horse Farm, near the intersection of Deerfield and Edge of Woods roads. The board voted to leave a 14-day window for written comments before town planner Claire Vail drafts her final report on the application.

The board is not expected to make its final determination on the application until next month at the earliest.

However, while the process seems to be moving forward, residents who had been vocal in their opposition to the building project had their last say.

“My concern is with the use of an [agricultural] reserve — [for which] the town purchased the development rights — for building a project of this size,” said Water Mill resident Kim Covell, whose home is adjacent to the proposed horse farm. “This is something we should think long and hard about.”

According to the application, Edge of Woods Horse Farm would include two 34,000 square foot outdoor riding rings, a 23,940 square foot indoor riding ring, as well as a 17,455 square foot barn with space for up to 36 horses. The proposed “grooms quarters” and utility building would exist within two structures currently on the property.

Currently, only 6,010 square feet are dedicated to buildings. The proposed horse farm would increase that to about 49,742 square feet.

Southampton Town purchased the development rights to the 30.3-acre property on Deerfield Road, then known as Frankenbach’s Deerfield Nursery, for $3.6 million in 2005. That action effectively preserved the land for open space.

However, according to planning board member Jacqi Lofaro, the proposed Edge of Woods Horse Farm does not, in fact, violate the town’s rules and regulations when it comes to preservation.

“As odd as it seems, New York State considers horse farms farming,” she explained. “Many people don’t realize that.”

In fact, “equestrian rights” is listed as one of the exemptions when it comes to limiting the development of open spaces. The property owner therefore has “the right to use and erect structures for the purpose of boarding, breeding, raising and training of horses or other equines,” according to official Grant of Development Rights signed in 2005.

The exemption does not include “riding academies” or “equine events.” But Tim McCulley, a lawyer for the proposed Edge of Woods Horse Farm, insisted the stables would be for private use only, and no classes or camps would be administered from the farm.

“We’re not trying to draw people from all over,” he told the board. “It can’t be a riding academy.”

Water Mill resident J. Andreassi, who has lived in the area for about 11 years, said overall, in his opinion the horse farm is a much better use of the land than what it’s been used for in the past. As a former commercial space, he explained that it brought a lot of tractor-trailers to the area, including trucks making deliveries early in the morning.

“My wife and I think this application is going to be much better for the future of that particular area,” he added. “From our point of view, there will be less traffic.”

However, some neighbors also cited concerns with a row of cypress trees proposed for the edge of the property.

Neighbor Peter Barylskie noted that some homeowners would be affected by the new row of foliage, in that they would lose sun earlier in the day, therefore shortening their days “by two or three hours.”

Harriet Wittenberg agreed with Barylskie.

“I don’t see any problem with this project, except that it might block our view,” she said.

McCulley said the landscaping plans are still “in the works.”

“We can accommodate the neighbors,” he added. “If the people want to see the horse farm, then we’re going to try to accommodate them as best as possible.”

Flying Point Foundation Adopts New Technology

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Heller_Kim Covell 1-24-12_0265

By Claire Walla

Since it’s inception in 2010, The Flying Point Foundation has made a concerted effort to cater to children with autism on the East End. The group has given them access to traditional summer camp experiences — like surfing, swimming, yoga and other non-competitive sports — that are sometimes difficult for high-needs kids to participate in.

But this year, Flying Point will up the ante. Thanks to an anonymous donation from a local charity organization, Flying Point will introduce new technology to its summer repertoire: the iPad.

“I was contacted by someone from this local foundation who happened to see a segment on ‘60 Minutes’ on iPads and autism,” said Kim Covell, the founding director of The Flying Point Foundation.

The program, which aired in October of 2011, emphasized the communication needs of those with autism, many of whom have trouble expressing their feelings, even in very simple ways. While there are currently devices that address this issue — allowing people to press “yes” or “no” buttons to answer questions instead of verbalizing responses — Covell said she praises the iPad for its versatility.

In addition to a communication-enhancing app called “Proloquo2Go,” which runs around $200, the device is designed to be user-friendly.

“I’m not an expert,” Covell implored, “but from my personal perspective it’s a really important piece of technology for providing easy access to information.”

Covell said that her son, who has autism, recently acquired an iPad and she’s been able to witness how effective it’s been for him.

“The touch screen is huge,” she said in terms of its importance. “When you look at the apps, it’s very clearly delineated what you have to choose.”

She said the simplicity of touching images to open programs actually streamlines the whole process, while the desktop computer interface requires users to click on series of folders and files to find programs and documents.

“Some children with autism tend to be disorganized, and some have terrible handwriting” Covell continued. The iPad mitigates all that. “Everything’s all in one spot.”

This is particularly helpful in a school environment, where organizational skills are necessary.

But in the context of summer camp, Covell said another benefit is that all kids can use the device, whether it’s for autism-specific purposes or not. This is particularly important for an organization like The Flying Point Foundation, which provides a summer camp model based on the idea of inclusion; in other words, both children with and without autism are invited to participate in its summer programs.

“Kids with autism have particular challenges, so it’s sometimes hard to find things [for them to do] that are on the same social level as their peers,” Covell continued.

But an iPad — which can hold a variety of tools, from apps that enhance communication to entertaining videos that can be seen on YouTube — almost bridges that divide.

“It almost evens the playing field a little bit,” she said.

The only downside at this point, Covell said, is the cost. A basic iPad runs about $500, but some apps (like Proloquo2Go) run $200. In total, Covell said Flying Point has been granted 15 iPads, and some extra funds to purchase relevant apps.

While there most likely won’t be enough devices for each camper to have exclusive access to his or her own, the devices can be used in a shared environment. And, for communication purposes, she added that the lead counselor will have his or her own device which a child will be able to use at times when thoughts are difficult to translate into speech. The camp is able to cater to the needs of children with autism in large part by providing a staff of special education teachers. And because some children require one-on-one care, she said the counselor-to-camper ratio is very low.

While Covell said she is not exactly sure how her foundation will factor the iPads into its tight schedule of rotating day-to-day activities, she imagines the gadgets will largely be used recreationally.

For example, one useful tactic for communicating with children with autism is implementing a “reward” system as an incentive for paying attention and following instructions, Covell said.

“It can be reinforcing,” she explained. “A behavioral program depends a lot on the child getting a reward at the end [of an activity].”

Covell also recently spoke with a special education expert in Southampton who gave some suggestions on how best to implement iPads into the camp’s daily activities.

“We’re probably going to add an iPad section to our daily rotation of activities,” she said. “This will be a great way for the typical kids to work together with the kids that need support, so that they can both learn about this technology and have fun doing it.”

At the end of the summer program, Covell added that Flying Point will donate two iPads to two children who attend the summer program. The donation will be made in conjunction with the child’s school program to ensure that the iPad is both as helpful as possible for the child, but also not a distraction for that child’s teacher.

In fact, Covell said, “If a family acquired an iPad, they would have to sign an agreement that they would be able to use the technology in school.”

“It’s amazing to me, to be able to say that this one device can be used therapeutically, recreationally, educationally, socially and for communication,” Covell said.