BY JOEL GROSSBARTH
Before a lively crowd gathered at the Eugene Levy Fieldhouse on the campus of Rockland Community College, the Airmont Village Board of Trustees passed a building moratorium for six months and a permanent ban on overnight parking within the village.
The building moratorium was passed to allow the village to appoint a committee to study the village’s master plan to see if it meets with current zoning needs and also to address inconsistencies contained within the Airmont Code. The Village Board also passed a ban that prohibits year-round overnight parking within the village between 2 – 6 a.m.
According to Trustee Dennis Cohen, the board has been discussing the proposed moratorium for months. “The moratorium hasn’t achieved what they (the Village Board) want to do.”
Cohen further explained that the Board had been discussing the concept for five to six months and has all but invited applicants to submit proposals before enactment of the moratorium. Approximately 80 people attended the hastily called meeting to voice their support or concerns about proposed laws. As expected, the public opinion was split down religious lines that have seemingly divided the village for decades.
Those speaking in favor of the moratorium included former Mayor Veronica Boesch who indicated the Village’s Master Plan was ten years old and it was time for the Village to study the need to update it’s Code to meet the needs of its current residents. Opposing the law was Yahuda Zorger. Mr. Zorger told the board that there would be no over-development in Airmont. Should the Board pass the law, a Court of law will decide and Airmont will lose again.
Mr. Zorger was referring to two previous lawsuits filed by the U.S. Government against the village claiming the village’s zoning code discriminates against religious groups. Both lawsuits resulted in the village paying civil fines and being forced to amend its code. Another opposing the moratorium was Grant Fern. Mr. Fern passionately told the Board that he feels threatened by his neighbors because of his religion and he is constantly watched. Ultimately the Board passed the moratorium by a 3-2 vote, with Mayor Phil Gigante casting the tie-breaking vote.
At the end of the meeting, residents had to be escorted out of the field house by Ramapo police after residents confronted those opposing the laws and a verbal altercation erupted.
Absent from the public hearings was any indication that the Village Board conducted a review required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act. The law commonly known as “SEQRA” requires municipalities to make an environmental review of all “actions” defined under the regulations.
These include, adoption or amendment of a comprehensive plan and/or adoption or amendment of zoning laws and ordinances and amendments to zoning laws and ordinances. When questioned after the meeting, Village Attorney Sean Mack did not know if SEQRA was done and referred questions to the Clerk. The Village Clerk then informed that SEQRA is never done for local laws. A request made to Mayor Gigante for response to this issue has not been responded to.