Friday, June 17, 2016

Delay of Chestnut Ridge hearing frustrates residents 

The Mamakating planning board was met with loud protests Thursday night when it decided to delay a highly anticipated hearing to consider rescinding approvals for the Chestnut Ridge townhouse development in the Village of Bloomingburg.

The due process hearing had been called for Thursday to consider rescission of site plan approval after documents were published that showed the developers of Chestnut Ridge had bigger plans for the project than the 396 units approved in 2009.

The previously secret developers' documents described a long-term plan for a Hasidic Jewish community of up to 5,000 homes, and the ability of the new residents to outnumber Bloomingburg's population of 400 and take over the local government. As a result of the documents' publication, the Mamakating planning board, which has jurisdiction over Bloomingburg, announced in a resolution that the developers appeared to have made "materially false" statements to get Chestnut Ridge approved, and the board would have a due process hearing to consider rescinding approval.

Bloomingburg and Mamakating residents filled the town hall meeting room Thursday night, some with signs in favor of rescission, but were abruptly told by town attorney Ben Gailey that the planning board received only a written response from attorneys for the development company Sullivan Farms, and without their appearance the board would adjourn the hearing until its next regular meeting on June 28. The board then went into executive session for legal advice for an hour, before taking no action and adjourning the meeting.

Dr. Sandrina Myruski was one of many frustrated residents who began yelling when the board announced its delay of the hearing. Myruski, who moved into her new Bloomingburg home just weeks before the secret documents were published, said that if the developers came forward and demonstrated the legality of their actions, then she could let it go. But if the developers have not acted legally, she said she would like to see the planning board show some backbone and move forward with the rescission process.

"If (the developer is) doing something in secrecy, that's not acceptable protocol," Myruski said.

Planning board chairman Stosh Zamonsky said after the meeting that they had to delay the hearing simply because the board needed time to review the developers' statement, which was only submitted Thursday afternoon.

Town councilwoman Christine Saward defended the planning board's decision, saying that they were only doing their due diligence to avoid a lawsuit.

However, Sullivan Farms attorneys John Henry and Terresa Bakner made it clear in their 20-page statement that there will certainly be a swift lawsuit if the planning board rescinds the approvals. The Mamakating planning board has no jurisdiction over Chestnut Ridge's six-year-old approval, the attorneys said, and it is simply trying to re-litigate lawsuits the town has already lost. If the planning board persists in its plan, the attorneys said, the town and its taxpayers will pay "dire consequences."

"The town's desperate last gasp attempt to assert jurisdiction over the Chestnut Ridge project and discriminate against the Hasidic Jewish families of Bloomingburg is flatly illegal," the attorneys said.

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