Monday, November 07, 2011

Kiryas Joel sues Woodbury over high-density zoning 

The Village of Kiryas Joel has sued the neighboring Town of Woodbury to dismantle its zoning, accusing it of discriminating against Hasidic Jews by not allowing dense housing in an area where the Hasidic community hopes to expand.
The lawsuit seeks to invalidate a comprehensive plan and two zoning laws that Woodbury trustees adopted in June after seven years of planning and demands by Kiryas Joel that high-density housing be permitted.
Also targeted is a 2010 law regulating religious buildings in Woodbury. The case is filed in state Supreme Court in Goshen.
Kiryas Joel's lawyers argue that zoning for large residential lots prevents Hasidic Jews from "living and freely practicing their religion in Woodbury" and thereby "places an unreasonable burden on Kiryas Joel's housing stock, infrastructure, community services and community character."
Joining the village and its officials in the lawsuit are five prongs of Vaad Hakiryah, the development arm of Kiryas Joel's main religious congregation. The organization, which owns 175 acres of undeveloped land in Woodbury, claims it has been prevented from building multifamily housing, synagogues and other typical features of a Hasidic community.
The plaintiff's lawyers suggest that by blocking Kiryas Joel-style growth, Woodbury's zoning has hampered the lifestyle of Hasidic families who have settled outside Kiryas Joel in recent years.
David and Rose Ungar, who bought a Woodbury home for $485,000 in 2006, complain in court papers that they're "prohibited from living in a compact and walkable community in close proximity to the religious and cultural services provided in Kiryas Joel."
Also named as a plaintiff is Kiryas Joel Public Safety Director Moses Witriol, who has lived in Woodbury since 2006 and lodged the same complaint as the Ungars.
Housing density a key issue
The underlying issue is Kiryas Joel's steady population growth and quest to expand.
The village now has about 22,000 residents, and most of the available land in its 1.1 square miles has been developed. In addition to Vaad Hakiryah, various Hasidic investors own hundreds of acres of land around Kiryas Joel, awaiting development.
Vaad Hakiryah's purchase of the 140-acre ACE Farm in 2004 set off jitters in neighboring communities about Kiryas Joel expanding. Not long afterward, new villages formed in Woodbury and Blooming Grove as a way to preserve their zoning.
In the new lawsuit, Kiryas Joel's attorneys argue that Orange County planners supported the notion of denser housing in Woodbury by labeling the disputed territory a "priority growth area."
They also point out that a three-county study identified the need for hundreds of affordable housing units in Woodbury.
The court papers claim that Woodbury rejected the idea of allowing high-density development by saying it would cause "significant environmental impacts," but gave no evidence to support that conclusion.

Woodbury's attorneys declined to respond to the case on Friday.

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