Friday, March 10, 2017

Residents angry after Bloomingburg Planning Board meeting canceled 

Opponents who had come to Thursday's Planning Board meeting prepared to speak against a temporary community center at the controversial Chestnut Ridge development shouted protests at the board chairman when he abruptly canceled the meeting because he couldn't get a quorum.

One resident accosted the Planning Board chairman, Chaim Friedman, because, the accuser said, electrical workers were on the job site, at 1-3 Cherry Court, yet the public hearing on the site plan hadn't occurred. "You're a lying sack of (expletive)," the man told Friedman.

Friedman, who is Hasidic, told the angry resident the contractors have a demolition permit to work at the Cherry Court buildings, which is legal under village law in advance of site plan approval. "I'm not the code enforcer," Friedman said. "File a complaint."

The two townhouses that are to be converted into a temporary community center are located near the entrance to the development. Construction crews were at work Thursday, using front-end loaders. There was a trash container parked in the driveway of one of the townhouses.

Chestnut Ridge is the subject of a lawsuit, filed a week ago by the Town of Mamakating. The town is seeking to have the court annul the village's approvals of the 396-unit townhouse development and require the developers to file new applications.

Opposition has focused on the fact that the developers proposed a luxury golf course development, but the plans morphed into townhouses, apparently marketed toward a Hasidic clientele, with occupancy as high as 10 people per unit.

On Tuesday, the Village Board certified that the townhouse-community center conversion met SEQRA (State Environmental Quality Review Act) requirements, a necessary step before the Planning Board's site plan consideration could occur.

As Thursday's meeting dissolved, Holly Roche, president of the opposition group Rural Community Coalition, asked Freidman why the Planning Board had set up Thursday's hearing before the Village Board certified SEQRA. "It's like setting a date for a wedding before you get engaged." Roche said.

Friedman said the board had had no intention of approving the site plan after Thursday's planned public hearing. He said that would not have been possible because the project is still waiting for approvals from Sullivan County.

The Planning Board, which should have five members, was already down one because member Bob Cassidy resigned two weeks ago. On Thursday, members Moshe Fried and Jim Johnson didn't show. Friedman and only one other member, Moshe Gancz, were there.

Friedman said he couldn't immediately say when the community center conversion issue would come up. Regularly scheduled meetings are generally held on the fourth Thursday of each month.

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