Trouble ahead in Ramapo

By ROBERT I. RHODES

(June 29, 2006)

The Ramapo Town Board is slipping another piece of unjustifiable zoning legislation past our unsuspecting residents. The legislation has a long and misleading title: "Proposed Local Law Amending Local Law No. 10-2004 (Zoning), to Provide Technical Amendments to the Zoning Law."

Because the amendments are supposedly only technical in nature the board was able to avoid a study of its environmental impact. But the legislation is not merely technical. It will allow a major increase in congestion in Monsey, drive out local residents who moved to what they believed would remain a suburban community, encourage a major increase in our town's population and contribute to our growing sewer crisis.

The law was first given legal notice in a relatively obscure county publication. Then our board rushed to a public hearing on its environmental impact. The hearing was held only two weeks after the legal announcement. In fact, it was held so quickly that the comments of our county Planning Department were only received on the day of the public hearing. This guaranteed that none of us had the opportunity to read this important document before the legally mandated public hearing.

Some of the amendments will merely encourage the continued deterioration of the quality of life in Monsey. One provision will allow parking in the front and side yard of apartment houses. Another provision will allow the dedication of as little as 5 percent of an apartment house's land to common open space.

The real shocker is the provision that will allow schools to have dormitories provided that the number of student residents "does not exceed the occupancy permitted in the school." Given the high cost of real estate in Brooklyn, we can anticipate that within a few years we will have many new schools in Ramapo with thousands of students living in dormitories.

Over the last five years we have had hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage flowing onto South Monsey Road in Airmont and contaminating the Saddle River. In my opinion, the Monsey collector lines are now so overloaded that we are going to have replace then at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. We will also have to replace the trunk line to the treatment plant in Orangeburg, and, finally, we will have to expand the treatment plant, also at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

I attended the recent public hearing and asked that it be continued for a few weeks so that our residents would have time to study the amendments. With its usual contempt for the democratic process, our board closed the public hearing after I spoke and by a vote of 4 to 0 found that the proposed "technical amendments" would not have any adverse environmental impact on our community.

Recently, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation forced Ramapo to sign a consent decree requiring that it submit a plan to correct the current deficiencies in our sewer system. Apparently nothing can discourage Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and our Town Board from continuing their efforts to dismantle any meaningful control over land use in Ramapo.