BY MICHAEL RICONDA
Suffern – In the midst of public discontent, the Ramapo Planning Board concluded a public hearing on the proposed condominiums and volunteer housing at the Patrick Farm land parcel in Suffern on Wednesday, January 17, with a vote to postpone a final vote.
During the meeting some members of the board said they’d like to see the project size reduced. Board member Dora Green requested a 10 to 12 percent reduction, while Timothy Scott requested a 50 percent reduction, halving the size of a project currently consisting of 410 multi-family condominiums and 87 single family houses.
The board can request changes in the plan, but the developer does not have to make the changes. The board only has the authority to accept or reject a complete proposal with a vote, not change it piecemeal.
With the public hearing finished, the board will now seek documented clarification on concerns related to fire code adherence, the distance of the project from a Columbia Gas pipeline, storm water drainage, hazardous waste management, official approval on wetland locations from the Army Corps of Engineers, traffic models, and the board’s liability for accidents resulting from faulty planning and zoning.
“Before I can make approval to close it, I need 100 percent clarification on what is correct,” Scott said. “So if we wish to close it, there are a lot of questions that need to be cleared up before such a thing can be done.”
Most of the meeting consisted of a presentation of the final site plan by Leonard Jackson Associates engineer Dennis Rocks and public comment from both local residents and attorneys representing parties opposed to the project.
Susan Shapiro, an attorney representing her parents who live near the Patrick Farm plot, submitted an Article 78 lawsuit to Ramapo representatives and argued that developers misrepresented a statement from the Army Corps of Engineers to say that they had built around wetlands. Instead, Shapiro claims that no assurance of wetland locations was given by the ACOE.
“The fact that they don’t have all the wetlands mapped should be a real concern to you,” Shapiro said to the board.
Shapiro also raised the issue of fire code adherence in the height and distance between buildings, continuity of wetlands which could alter their protection level, and the exclusion of a nondiscrimination clause to ensure that residents of all backgrounds have an opportunity to live in the new housing.
Attorney Jeremy Kozin also submitted Article 78 documents on behalf of his clients with Ramapo Organized for Sustainability and a Safe Aquifer (ROSA), arguing that in light of new information submitted to the Department of Environmental Conservation related to the possibility of groundwater contamination, flooding, and other potential environmental impacts, the town’s review process should be revisited with a supplemental environmental impact statement.
“There is absolutely no reason to rush to judgment, especially whereas like the present, the public has not even had a full day to review and assess information and documents submitted in conjunction with this application,” Kozin said.
Engineering representative Dennis Rocks defended the project, stressing that the final plan presented at the hearing remain unchanged from the plans submitted a year ago and was carefully designed to meet environmental protection standards.
“One of the hallmarks of this design was avoidance, and we avoided all wetlands,” Rocks said. “There is no disturbance to any wetland or any 100 foot adjacent area.”
Rocks also stated that developers were awaiting final approval from agencies such as the DEC and Department of Transportation, and that no major difficulties were anticipated from others such as Columbia Gas who already approved the project.
The board now has 42 days to make a final decision on the property, while they await clarifications on their concerns and word from developers on the housing size reduction request. Given that honoring the request is voluntary, it is unknown whether or not the developer will alter the current plan.