Letters to the Journal News February 19, 2007

RLUIPA should be 'Our Loophole'

County residents and voters have to open their eyes and look very carefully at what is happening around them. In our busy lives, we expect our local elected officials to watch out for all of us and be diligent in how our communities grow. A floodgate has been opened and it is called RLUIPA (the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act) and it is being actively used as a "loophole" throughout our communities by religious groups to surpass all the zoning laws that have taken many years to establish. This law trumps all local zoning laws and threatens local villages and towns with all the religious groups' legal fees if RLUIPA is enacted and prevails.

I believe strongly that a RLUIPA case will go before the Supreme Court and the current law will be repealed. Until that happens, this current version will be thrust on many communities throughout the United States.

We on Hillside Avenue in Airmont had to form a homeowner's organization to sue the Village of Airmont for agreeing to a settlement. We have many compelling reasons why a yeshiva/adult student housing on Hillside Avenue should not go forward, and they are all based on solid health, safety and welfare issues.

Our local elected officials must contest this new law, pick up the burden of legal fees and get the attention of our state and national leaders to review this law of unintended consequences.

Peter Strasser

Answers needed in New Square fire

As a Town of Ramapo taxpayer and registered voter, I was very appalled after reading the articles about a fire in New Square in the Feb. 8 Journal News. In Bob Baird's column that day, "Tragedy averted - again," Hillcrest Fire Chief Tim Wren states that not only himself, but his brother (Gordon Wren Jr., director of Fire & Emergency Services) and other fire officials have written to everyone they can think of in voicing their legitimate concerns about the lack of zoning and fire code enforcement in New Square. "We're concerned with the safety of our members," Tim Wren says, "and with the safety of the residents."

What I'd like to know (and what I think the voting public should have the right to know) are the names of the publicly elected officials who have been written to, but seem to disregard the valued lives of our firefighters and others. As a registered voter, I, for one, get tired of hearing all the canned speeches at election time. What will make my decision a lot easier at election time is to see the actions (or in this case, inactions) of our elected officials in abandoning our firefighters.

Dan Yagodzinski