Multi-Family Zoning a Source of Controversy in Congers

BY MARIA BROWNSELL

 Loretta Raimne and Dolores Daubitz being honored for their years of service
Loretta Raimne and Dolores Daubitz being honored for their years of service

At the Clarkstown Town Board Meeting on April 8, one of the public hearings sparked some heated conversation.

The hearing was about a proposed local law entitled: “A local Law Amending the Zoning Map of the Town of Clarkstown, Congers Multifamily Zoning. The zoning district would be changed from light industrial office to multi-family zoning in Congers Hamlet Center. The idea is to keep the area behind the stores residential instead of all commercial. There were many concerned residents about this change.

Stephen Levine who resides in Congers is concerned about the stress on schools that would be created by adding multi-family homes to the area. Currently the schools are under-populated and the district is talking about closing a school, but he believes this rezoning could cause there to be too many new students. He is also worried about the sewer system and traffic that would be added to Lake Road.

“Maybe we need to put a break on things,” Levine repeated a few times. He mentioned how parts of 9W have been recently rezoned for residential above retail, and the same in the New City.

Joe Simoes, the town planning director, said that only about 4.5 acres would be changed for multifamily (MF3) development, and that number would be even further reduced by parts being wetlands. There would be a maximum of fifty-four 3 bedroom units that could be developed, and that is only if the adjacent landowners decided to work together.

Some residents are concerned that changing the zoning without having any exact plans as what to will be built will cause significant problems. They think that the proposal show include exactly what will be there.

“We’re issuing a blank check. We should know what we are getting. We thought some of this area would be senior housing. This is a blank piece of paper letting someone come in and do what they want. It is too open-ended,” said Gerry O’Rourke, president of Congers Civic Association.

Joe Ciardullo of New City asked about zoning the area for active adult residence (AAR) instead of MM3. Simoes explained that AAR is a floating zone and could be allowed within the MM3 area.

“There should be no change of the zoning at this time. It would be setting a dangerous example in Clarkstown,” said Nancy Pagan.

Jan Degenshein, a housing committee member, disagreed. “This is the highest and best use for the community. We want more local shopping, but we need people to do the shopping,” he explained. “We are losing young families that cannot afford single family homes. We need to provide housing for the aging population also.”

“We’ve been discussing this since 2010 at housing committee meetings. We need to provide for the needs of our changing community,” added Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner.

Another hearing that took place was about seizing a piece of a property in West Nyack. The property would be used primarily for drainage and storm water management. It would also be used for preservation of Wetlands and a walking path that displayed information about the wetlands.

Deputy Town Attorney Paul Schofield and the Director for Environmental Control K. Luke Kalarickal, spoke on the matter. Kalarickal said that it is about 2.63 acres that will be taken from the property, all of which is significantly wetland and flood plain.

“I am always very weary of the use of eminent domain but we really have to weight the public benefits. I had hoped the town and owners would have come to an agreement,” said Levine. “The particular spot is really wetlands and undevelopable. The flooding is very bad in West Nyack.”

“We have unquestionably a wetland there. I believe this is an entirely appropriate use of that,” said Bert Dahm, the President of the Heritage of West Nyack.

SEQR determined that there would be no significant adverse affect created by this acquisition. A resolution was created to acquire the necessary property and create storm water drainage, while preserving the environment. The board passed the resolution.

Loretta Raimone and Dolores Daubitz were both honored at the beginning of the meets for their years of service in the as receiver of taxes and deputy receiver of taxes. Board members thanked the women for all their hard work, as did Town Clerk Justin Sweet.

“The level of service and professionalism that you brought to the community is unparallel,” said Sweet.