Ramapo Rejects Beth Shraga Development On Burgess Meredith Estate


beth-shragaThe Journal News reports: Mesifta Beth Shraga’s plan for a yeshiva, dormitory and staff housing on the former Burgess Meredith estate stands rejected by the Zoning Board of Appeals. There was some question of that rejection after the board’s June 18 meeting when it initially appeared that zoning variances for the project were approved by a 3-2 vote. Moments later, a town official announced that a supermajority, or 4-1 vote, was needed to overcome concerns registered by the county’s Department of Planning.The Town Attorney’s Office and the zoning board affirmed the need for the supermajority late last week.

“While the (county’s review) is ambiguously worded and equivocal in places,” the town’s decision said, a “supermajority was required to override its recommendations.”

“We are quite ecstatic about it,” said Gerry Fox, who lives near the site on Camp Hill Road and led efforts opposing the project.

“But we’re not sitting back on our laurels,” Fox said. “Maybe the tides are shifting in the town of Ramapo. Maybe.”

Ira Emanuel, a New City attorney representing Mesifta, said Friday that it was undecided what to do.

Mesifta could challenge the ruling in state Supreme Court or it could make adjustments to the project and present it again to the Planning Board.

“We’re obviously disappointed with their decision,” Emanuel said moments after receiving the ruling. “I have to confer with my client to decide what our next steps are.”

In part, the county’s planners said the town should “consider” traffic, drainage, water supply and sewers, among other issues, in relation to such projects.

There were also concerns about buffering between the project and nearby residences to mitigate intrusions of noise and lighting.

Planning and zoning boards often overcome the supermajority voting requirement with unanimous votes for projects, particularly in the Monsey area where the demand for housing continues to grow.

The county, for example, has been cautioning Ramapo for several years to consider the strains that its R-15C zone puts on the infrastructure, but many projects have been approved in the zone, where single-family houses can be replaced with as many as six multifamily units.

“It requires the municipality to give careful consideration to what the county Department of Planning is saying,” Town Attorney Michael Klein said of the supermajority requirement, “but it doesn’t hamstring the municipality.”

Emanuel has said that the Camp Hill Road project would preserve the oldest portion of a Revolutionary War-era house on the property – a concern of residents and historians – and that issues including traffic, stormwater drainage and infrastructure were addressed earlier with the Planning Board.

The Planning Board decided that the project would have no significant environmental effects, and had recommended that the zoning board grant the variances sought by Mesifta.

Residents of the area, though, presented the zoning board with an 855-signature petition opposing all variances, including one allowing more development than permitted.

“These are people who live in the area,” Fox said of the project’s opponents, “who want to maintain the historical nature of our environment and not just zone it to something else.” He said the vigilance of his neighbors would not end with this decision.

“If they go to the state Supreme Court, we will be looking over their shoulder,” Fox said. “We live here. This is our community. This is our environment.”

{The Journal News/Matzav.com Newscenter}