The Fate of the Mountain

Thursday, Sept. 15, the Ramapo Town Board moved one step closer to approving the Ramapo Ridgetop Development (Lorterdan) project for a gated community of $500,000+ homes to be placed on 249 acres off Sterling Mine Road in the Ramapo Mountains near Sloatsburg.


Edward Goodell (Exec. Director of the NY/NJ Trail Conference) has pointed out the Town’s complicity in this action:

  1. At every step of the way, the Town has not heeded repeated warnings of the impact this would have on the fragile public lands surrounding the project.

  2. The Town required the developer to develop on the ridgetop away from the road, thereby making it visible from publicly protected wilderness parks for miles around instead of confining the visual impact to the immediate surroundings.

  3. The Town greatly increased the impact by changing the zoning from R80 (1 unit per 2 acres) to active adult housing. It would have been much better to keep it at R80 and allow a cluster development which would have meant half as many units, or less.

Lorterdan (from Montclair, N.J.) has proposed four developments like this one totaling more than 1,800 potential housing units.


The Letter and Additional Information


Dear Friends,

Last evening over fifty NY/NJ Trail Conference and Sierra Club members attended the Ramapo Planning Board hearing on the 292-unit Lorterdan development on the edge of Sterling Forest, Ringwood & Harriman state parks. They came from as far as Somerville NJ, New York City and Connecticut. I can't thank folks enough for turning out. It was by far the largest number attending any of the Lorterdan hearings.

Frustrated, But Tenacious
Whereas the last hearing in July was held a half hour early, so folks  showing up at the advertised time of 8:00 PM arrived to find the  meeting over, the opposite happened yesterday. The doors opened late at almost 8:30 PM. We were the fourth item on the agenda, but were moved to the end. We started after 11:00 PM. A good many folks simply couldn't stay, and who can blame them? The Planning Board did their best to get rid of us with this delay tactic. It didn't work. A tenacious group of almost 30 stayed to
the end. Faced with this sizable opposition, the applicant's attorney then tried to stop us from speaking. He "told" the board the environmental portion of the application was done. He expressed outrage that the Trail Conference would dare to show "misleading" photos and computer simulations of the visual impacts. The Planning Board Chairman then asked for clarification, and the town attorney sided with the developer. The public would not be allowed to speak about the environment. We spoke anyway, until 1:15 in the morning!


The frustration generated by the long evening turned to anger, and folks would not be silenced. Ed McGowan, Director of Science for the Palisades Park Commission (formerly of the Trail Conference!) led off, and while he was not allowed to offer his expert and substantive environmental comments, spoke out against the way the proceedings were being handled. Next up, Ed Goodell, Trail Conference Executive  Director, gave each planning board member a packet of:
Ed's comments (well worth reading, a great summary);

A printed version of the power point we were prohibited from presenting (warning, very large file!);

A critique of the applicant's Visual Impact Assessment by the best  in the business, Dr. Smardon;

Dr. Smardon's resume & credentials;

DEC policy on Visual Impact Assessment.


 The Planning Board tried to stop Ed Goodell from speaking, stating that since we had handed in written comments, there was no need to speak. The crowd demanded that Ed continue. He did so, refusing to yield the floor. And so it went, with about 20 folks going up to the podium.

At the end of the hearing the Planning Board closed the public portion and reserved the right to vote at their meeting Oct. 11.


Now What?
Frankly, it seems obvious that the Lorterdan development is a done deal in the minds of Ramapo officials. The Trail Conference will continue efforts with public officials, but it should be clear to folks, especially those in attendance last evening, that they will allow no further public input.

Beyond Lorterdan, to the Ramapo Watershed
Tomorrow (Sept 16) , in the same hearing room - the Ramapo Town Hall Council Room, officials from 29 jurisdictions in the bi-State Ramapo watershed will sign a memorandum of understanding marking the formal  establishment of the Ramapo River Watershed Intermunicipal Council  (RRWIC). The mission of the Council is to ensure the continued  quality of the Ramapo River Watershed's drinking water, and to  preserve remaining open spaces and enhance the quality of life of its  residents.

The effort to create this Council was spearheaded by no other than Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. It's on his watch that Ramapo adopted a Comprehensive Plan (CP) to protect just about every conceivable environmental quality, including  viewsheds. It is also on his watch that the Lorterdan project is moving towards final approval. A project in opposition to just about every objective and goal of the CP.

The bottom line is that, without concrete action at the local level to stop or, at least mitigate, projects like Lorterdan, the RRWIC is greenwash, empty rhetoric, not worth the paper it's printed on. If Chris St. Lawrence is going to lead the charge to "protect" the
Ramapo Watershed, disregarding public outcry against projects like Lorterdan is not the way to go about it.

Thanks Again For Showing Up!

I can't emphasize our appreciation to those folks attending last evening's meeting (and to the 1,000 folks sending e-mails via the Action Network to Town officials). This show of support for our trails and open space was truly inspirational.

Thanks for answering the call.

Dennis W. Schvejda
Advocacy Director
NY/NJ Trail Conference



The Journal News article Vote Delayed on Lorterdan can be read here.