The Recent Zoning Changes

The Ramapo town board is slipping another piece of unjustifiable zoning legislation past our unsuspecting residents. The proposed 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 proposed legislation is not merely technical. When enacted 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 town 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 proposed 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 five 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. 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 Orangeberg, and, finally, we will have to expand the treatment plant, also at a cost of tens of millions of dollars.

I attended the public hearing on Tuesday and asked that the hearing be continued for a few weeks so that our residents would have time to study the proposed amendments. With its usual contempt for the democratic process, our town 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 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 St. Lawrence and our town board from continuing their efforts to dismantle any meaningful control over land use in Ramapo.

Robert I. Rhodes, Ph.D.

Chairman, Preserve Ramapo