Thursday, July 14, 2016

Mamakating Planning Board rescinds Chestnut Ridge permits 

Residents attend a meeting of the Town of Mamakating Planning Board on Wednesday night.

To thunderous applause from town residents, the Mamakating Planning Board on Wednesday night voted unanimously to rescind permits for the Chestnut Ridge townhouse development in Bloomingburg.

At its third attempt at a due process hearing on the matter since June 16, the board retreated immediately into executive session to consult with Town Attorney Ben Gailey, emerging an hour and 15 minutes later to greet a crowd on edge.
"Give us the news," one man shouted.

At stake was not just the approvals granted for the contentious 396-unit Hasidic development six years ago by the now-dissolved Bloomingburg Planning Board; at stake was the very future of this tiny, eastern Sullivan County village.

The due process hearing had been called 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.

Summarizing the board's 20-page resolution to rescind the permits, Gailey said:

"Based on the new evidence received by the Planning Board in the documents that were disclosed by the federal court, based on the material change in facts that the board is now aware of, and based on the materially false statements and misrepresentations made by the developer during the project review process, that warrants and requires the rescission of development approvals."

Gailey further said those misrepresentations would have extreme adverse effects on the "fiscal impacts, water supply and traffic that are significantly at variance with the project review."

The rescission does not affect the 51 lots and dwellings already built, but applies to the remainder of the unfinished project, Gailey said.

No further building permits or certificates of occupancy are to be issued until the developer complies with state fire code and submits an amended plan. That compliance must be satisfied with the Department of State.

The developer may submit a new application if those requirements are met, Gailey said.

No representatives of the developer, Sullivan Farms, nor its attorneys, John Henry and Terresa Bakner, attended Wednesday's due process hearing. Bakner had previously promised a swift and punishing lawsuit against the town if the approvals were rescinded.

While the crowd was overwhelmingly ecstatic over the board's vote, some, like Bloomingburg resident Lesleigh Weinstein, remained cautiously optimistic.
"I'm glad they voted the way they voted," Weinstein said. "But in light of the village meeting on Monday, I'm concerned this victory will be short-lived."

The Village Board on Monday voted to reform a village planning board, and has 60 days in which to take back the town's authority over Chestnut Ridge.

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