Friday, March 31, 2017

Monroe drafts plan for development 

Town officials have released a proposed Comprehensive Plan, a major step forward in a zoning update that prompted them to halt all home construction 11 months ago and triggered lawsuits from developers with approved housing plans.

The 255-page document, written by a planning consultant and posted on the town website on Wednesday, catalogs current conditions in the unincorporated areas outside Monroe's three villages and outlines a vision for guiding growth in them over the next five years, based partly on public input the planner solicited. Woven into it are suggestions that would have to be codified as zoning amendments to have any teeth, once the Comprehensive Plan is finalized.

Councilman Michael McGinn, a Town Board member involved with the zoning review, said Thursday that he expects the board to take the next step when it meets on Monday by scheduling public workshops to discuss the draft plan.

"We're moving forward with it," McGinn said. "We'd certainly like to get it done within the next eight weeks."

Five developers with approved plans for a total of 446 homes have sued Monroe to overturn the moratorium. None had started construction, although at least two — the developers of the 181-home Smith Farm project on Gilbert Street and the 46-home Shea Meadows on Rye Hill Road — had cleared their sites shortly before the board imposed the moratorium in April 2016.

The proposed Comprehensive Plan suggests possible zoning changes in two areas of town, although it's unclear if anything in the plan would lead to changes that affect any of the five pending developments. The plan's most readily apparent recommendation applies to an area north of Route 17 and west of Kiryas Joel, and it offers ways to make the zoning there less restrictive, not more so.

Ronald Kossar, a Middletown lawyer representing the Smith Farm project, said Thursday that his client and the other developers won't really know if the plan impinges on their projects until any zoning amendments are produced. He scoffed at the idea that the process can be completed in two months, and questioned why the board won't let the builders proceed if there are no impending changes that affect them.

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