By Kathy Kahn
Stony Point’s Town Board is learning just how powerful a virtual presence can be. Nearly 400 residents joined its Tuesday, Dec 8 meeting either via Zoom or by calling in, prompting Supervisor Jim Monaghan to welcome the increased capacity at what has typically been low attendance at the Board’s in-person meetings at the RHO building. He noted the Town’s annual Christmas tree lighting, albeit a virtual one, was viewed by over 1,000 residents on the Town’s Facebook page.
“We continue to see a rise in Covid-19 in Rockland County and here in Stony Point,” said Monaghan. “Gov. Cuomo has designed ‘yellow zones’ in all five towns and in some parts of our town. If our cases continue to rise and we go into an ‘orange’ or ‘red’ zone, it will be devastating for our small businesses already struggling to survive.” Monaghan said regular meetings with the heads of all Town Department are helping to ensure safety precautions are in place to protect all workers. Residents who are accustomed to paying property taxes in person were encouraged to forego visiting Town Hall and to use regular mail instead.
While Monaghan expressed satisfaction with the high numbers of residents who tuned in, he clarified his position by disavowing resident George Potanovic’s Dec 7 email blast to residents, hoping that it was not the reason so many townsfolk virtually attended the meeting.
“Misinformation is continually put out by George…and misinformation does no service to the people of Stony Point.” The Board unanimously passed a resolution condemning Potanovic and SPACE (Stony Point Action Committee for the Environment), adding that his email blast was negligent and ignorant. while warning SPACE’s president that capricious, fear-mongering posts often lead to lawsuits. “If that happens, it will be SPACE’s problem not the Town’s,” said Monaghan.
Max Stach, the Town’s planner, introduced a comprehensive new local law that tweaks Stony Point’s zoning. The 33-page document is available on the Town of Stony Point’s website,www.townofstonypoint.org. Monaghan said the update was necessary to ensure the rural, historic character of the town be preserved. “We’ve been discussing this for more than a year and also discussed this at length with the Building Department. We recently hired a part-time code enforcement officer, but there can’t be any enforcement without regulations,” said Monaghan. “Our goal is to look at all the zoning in the town as a whole.”
Councilman Tom Basile said the proposed new local law was thorough. “We like to think we are ‘sleepy’ Stony Point—well, it’s been 25 years since our code was updated. It’s very important, and we talk often on this Board about protecting and preserving the quality of life. Not updating the town’s zoning is like not having a speed limit on a road. If you don’t have a speed limit, it becomes an autobahn. We are adjusting the code so that we can put limits. The town has the right to its quality of life and safety preserved.”
Those who weighed in on the proposed zoning updates disavowed Potanovic and his incendiary message. “I thank the Board for putting these zoning amendments together. I just have one question, the way it is written, does it violate the RLUIPA (Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons) Act?” queried resident Walter Citron. “No,” replied Town attorney Patrick Nugent. Resident Susan Filgueras also thanked the Board for bringing the issues to the forefront, adding, “We have also not looked at the Master Plan for ten years. Perhaps it’s time we take a look that as well.”
Stony Point’s public hearing on its updated zoning code was continued to its next board meeting on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. With Covid-19 rearing its ugly head once more, Monaghan said the meeting would most likely be virtual, with Nugent adding he would seek to have Zoom capacity increased so more residents could participate.