By Kathy Kahn
Ramapo residents’ pleas to halt zoning and building code changes to the northeastern quadrant of the town fell on deaf ears last Wednesday, Jan 20, during a hastily arranged Zoom meeting. After all was said and done, the Town Board unanimously voted to continue a process it began in 2018 that proposes to re-zone and re-purpose its semi-rural northeast corridor, making way for future development.
One by one, the majority of participants who called in to the “special meeting” asked the town to abandon what they considered to be a poorly assembled Scoping document. Some callers asked the Board to update its 2004 Comprehensive Plan and include the whole town in it, rather than doing it piecemeal.
CUPON (Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods) has already filed an Article 78 legal action against the Town and Alex Goldberger, owner of Monsey Lumber, for code changes the town made to the Pascack Ridge development. The change allows Goldberg to significantly add to the number of housing units that would have been permitted under the old code.
At one point in the meeting, Board member Yehuda Weissmandl seemingly took over for several minutes, telling participants, “We spoke about building sites for multiple schools, new zoning codes for different areas, we had a lot of these conversations…we need schools, safe schools…we have struggled.” The board member did not specify who the “we” included in his statements represented.
Anna Frieberg, president of Skyview Acres, said, “We are trying to be cooperative and collaborative neighbors. The Supervisor already mentioned the process was blurred. Why is the town proceeding at this juncture, in the middle of a pandemic? Is this for current residents or for the people you’ll invite here? There seems to be a plan to expand that does not include the residents.”
CUPON attorney Susan Shapiro told the Board, “I’ve already submitted extensive comments—the public scoping sessions you said you held—there was no ‘plan’ to be scoped; The most basic questions were not answered by the Town’s consultants, and their answers were totally irrelevant to the people who live in Ramapo. The town promised to include public concerns, and that has not happened. The Town said it would create a steering committee they discontinued those meetings when no one from Monsey took an interest. Ramapo must consider that it’s increasing segregation—certain areas of Ramapo are 99 percent white. That’s unconstitutional.”
Resident Alan Friedberg, who has been a Ramapo resident for 63 years, said he was shocked at the way Ramapo has been developed, adding, “You gave us one day’s notice for this meeting…this is not the time for the town board to be voting on these scoping documents…they’re not accurate, anyway. Please table this consideration.”
While the majority of callers were against the Town’s plan to move forward with changes to northeast Ramapo’s zoning, a few welcomed it, with one male caller saying he had “four children and they all need a place to live.” Another said anything the town decided was “OK with me.”
The last speaker before the public comment was closed was Susan Mitchell, a representative of ROSA (Rockland Organized for Sustainability and a Safe Aquifer) “I completely oppose any vote. If you continue to build out our open spaces, you’re also going to decrease quality of life for people who are here or those who want to come here. You also did not recognize the comments of the Hillcrest Fire Department. Gordon Wren expressed a number of times how dangerous the situation is for the people in Ramapo.”
After Mitchell spoke, the Board voted unanimously after Brendl Logan made a motion to accept the Scoping Document and proceed at 10:30 PM. Specht told Mitchell he would make sure the comments made by the Hillcrest Fire Company were addressed.
Specht told Zoom attendees the Town plans to keep residents posted on how it moves forward from the scoping document to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement—he said he will advise the public on the progress at each scheduled board meeting. For those who have questions or comments, if they are received two days prior to the next board meeting, they will be answered at that meeting. For those wishing to add questions or comments, the address to send them to is firstname.lastname@example.org.