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The Elma Zoning Board of Appeals has turned down a request from the Jewish Community Center for a variance to build a 400-seat amphitheater at Camp Centerland on Bullis Road.

Although the board issues no reasons for denying some requests, a 71-signature petition from nearby Pond Brook town houses raised issues of noise and traffic concerns. A crowd of 85 residents voiced their opinions and asked questions, some wondering if the amphitheater would be rented out on weekends, increasing noise levels that many claim are already too high.

Michael Hyman, executive director of the camp, told the board that the amphitheater would be only used during the week for 325 5- to 12-year-olds as a gathering place for plays and musical skits as part of their summer camp program. No amplifiers would be used.

But residents said they didn't believe the theater would be restricted to the youth. Grace Thomasson, who has lived across the street from the camp for 40 years, said the "camp was strictly run for years but in the last five years there is pounding music on weekends." She said when she called to the camp to complain she was treated "shabbily."

Dr. Norman Schaaf, a Jerge Drive resident, said he and his wife cannot sit outside in their yard and talk due to the noise level on some weekends from the camp. He said he called the camp and was told that "we can't control who we rent to."

Hyman's response that he was unaware of any complaints in the past year was met with laughter and hoots from the group.

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