DEC holds public hearing on Patrick Farm Development
By Michael Riconda
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation hosted two public hearings on Monday, January 7 to discuss the legality of a proposed housing development at the site of Patrick Farm on Route 202 in Ramapo.
The hearing focused upon concerns related to water integrity, wildlife, air and noise pollution, traffic and other concerns, with supporters and opponents of the project appearing to testify before adjudicatory judge Molly McBride. The new development is expected to house mostly members of the Orthodox and/or Hasidic Jewish community.
The Patrick Farm parcel lies on a 208-acre stretch of land by the intersection of Routes 202 and 306. Patrick Farm has faced zoning changes beginning in 2004 which doubled the number of single family homes that could be built with a change from one to two acre zoning, and then went further, allowing for multi-family homes.
In 2010, a multi-family development was proposed which could bring 87 single-family homes and 410 multi-family units to the site, along with a potential 5,000 influx of residents. The proposal has drawn criticism for its potential impact upon the county’s water supply through disruption of wetlands and a federal waterway, concerns which critics say have not been addressed by developers.
Daniel M. Richmond, an attorney representing Ramapo United for Sustainability and a Safe Aquifer (ROSA), summarized the legal arguments against the project and advised the DEC to set up an adjudicatory hearing to make a determination on issues which had not been resolved by the town’s SEQRA.
“The town’s SEQRA findings do not fully address-and are not responsive to-the environmental issues that the Department must consider in connection with its permitting decisions here,” Richmond said.
Richmond argued that when the town of Ramapo submitted permits in compliance with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), it did not adequately address issues related to the locations of designated wetlands, the limits of navigable waterways, and other water quality concerns.
In addition, Richmond argued that the applicants failed to get a jurisdictional determination from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which could have shed light on the project’s impact. Hence, the DEC could not use Ramapo’s SEQRA for its final determination on the project’s fitness.
Aside from local residents, organizations, and legal representatives, those in attendance included local mayors Jeff Oppenheim of Montebello, Veronica Boesch of Airmont, and Brett Yagel of Pomona. In addition, County Legislators Joe Meyers and Ed Day attended the meeting, expressing concern over the impact of the project.
The legislature has been divided on the issue, with several legislators such as Aney Paul, Aron Wieder, Daniel Soskin, and Toney Earl supporting the project. Earl defended the project as a way to create jobs and provide housing which was sorely needed in the town.
“I have no problem with it if they get all the state certificates and meet all the environmental requirements,” Earl said.
Legislator Day begged to differ. The county legislator and 2013 candidate for county executive said, “I have never seen an application that down-zoned property to the extent that we had in front of us tonight. Thousands of people, hundreds of homes, a parcel home to wetlands and federal waterway that feed public drinking water supplies, clear-cutting 140 acres of land, and an unfathomable impact upon traffic in this community.”
Day, who represents New City and Pomona residents in Legislative District 5, stated in his testimony that as a former civic association president, he was in strong opposition to the project.
He expressed concern over not only the impact of the land, but also the population surge which could result, providing context to Clarkstown residents by comparing it to converting the Dellwood Property in New City into multi-family homes for thousands of new residents and stressing that any developer should be held accountable to what they pledge to do.
“I think it’s critical that any assertions being made are documented, codified, and backed up by something outside of the claim of the developer,” Day said.
Other county executive candidates have remained mum on the controversial project, Day noted.
While Patrick Farm continues to undergo debate and discussion, three miles to the southeast, the Town of Haverstraw is working on bringing in a new Wal-Mart to the long-vacant Mt. Ivy lots across from the supermarket. If that project ultimately goes forward as it’s expected, it could become the shopping mecca for the new residents of Patrick Farm.
With the completion of Patrick Farm’s DEC hearing, the next major step in the future of the project will be a public hearing on the approval of the final site plans, which occurred last night at a Ramapo Planning Board meeting. The meeting took place after the newspaper went to press. Check www.rocklandtimes.com for an update on the story.