“During a contentious and emotional meeting, the Board of Trustees adopted a three-tier zoning law that allows houses of worships in residential neighborhoods.
The law adopted Thursday night before dozens of people will be challenged in court by CUPON-Chestnut Ridge, an attorney for the grassroots group said Friday.
Steve Mogel said the board ignored basic environmental impacts on residents by essentially allowing unlimited houses of worship and crafting the law to cater to the Orthodox Jewish Coalition, which suggested the zone and has since filed a civil rights lawsuit accusing the village of violating religious rights.
“I think the way they crafted the resolution defined their bias,” Mogel said. “What they did … throughout the whole process is they made it clear that they would pick and choose among the statements made to support their pre-conceived determination to pass the resolution regardless of how bad it might be for the overall community.”
Mayor Rosario “Sam” Presti said the updated law reflects the increased Orthodox and Hasidic Jewish population since the south Spring Valley community formed as a village in 1986.
The mayor released a statement on behalf of the five-member board explaining their view of the need for the zoning regulations.
Presti said the zoning law met the needs of the village and constitutional freedom of religion requirements.
“As new residents moved into the village, with different worship requirements, these additional needs triggered a review of the law because the village has a legal obligation to accommodate all religious uses and to not unreasonably limit them in terms of their location or based upon a particular religious denomination,” Presti stated.
Voting for the resolution creating the house of worship law were Presti, Deputy Mayor Grant Valentine, and trustees Howard Cohen, Richard Miller and Paul Van Alstyne.
The three-tiered system includes:
- Residential houses of worship where a religious leader would live and could hold services for up to 49 people based on the local zoning code. The house would have to meet fire codes and get planning approvals.
- Neighborhood houses of worship without living areas would require more parking and buffers, planning board and zoning board variances. The allowable attendance would depend on the size of the house, but could top 100 people.
- Community worship houses on five acres, needing special permit, planning and zoning approvals.
Mogel said CUPON will challenge the law, arguing the village doesn’t sufficiently deal with a house of worship’s impact on traffic, storm water, community changes, parking and fire services.
“It’s shameful the way this process has gone on,” he said, accusing village officials of lacking transparency.
Presti has taken exception to those accusations, saying the board members have listened and considered all comments and criticism.
The zoning has become election issue as two trustees who voted for the measure go before the voters on March 19. Anthony Shaut and Planning Board member Jeffrey Wasserman – who support a comprehensive plan and questioned parts of the law — are challenging Valentine and Van Alstyne.”
The read the full text of the Journal News coverage, including video from the meeting click here.