Community View first appeared in The Journal News Aug. 20, 2018
The proposed amendment to the Ramapo Comprehensive Plan is a Trojan horse.
The destruction of zoning in Ramapo has been going on for years. Usually the Ramapo Planning Board puts together a list of all of the variances that a well-connected builder needs to build high density housing where it isn’t allowed. Then the Zoning Board of Appeals approves the illegal variances. Finally, the Planning Board gives approval to the development. Since ordinary residents don’t have the resources to sue, the illegal decision is final.
But now a group of citizens has made it clear that the Pascack Ridge housing proposal will not go unchallenged. In response, our town board has decided to promote the builder’s proposal through the passage of an amendment to our comprehensive plan.
But this is a highly questionable solution to the problem. Spot zoning is still illegal whether it be carried out through the ordinary approval process or through an amendment to the existing comprehensive plan. A comprehensive plan has to be general in its applicability. It can’t simply allow the downzoning of just one particular parcel. Consequently, the amended comprehensive plan provides a loophole for future high-density applications.
The next builder who wants to build a high-density development will point to Pascack Ridge and ask why his proposal is less worthy. He will either win in court, or the Ramapo town board will have a convenient excuse for passing still another amendment.
During the years that Michael Specht, our new town supervisor, was the attorney for the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals he oversaw the board’s illegal approval of downzoning one site at a time. Now his sponsors see an opportunity to destroy all meaningful zoning in Ramapo.
This will be an expensive legal battle. The builders who own Michael Specht are betting that they can use our town’s legal resources to outlast the challenge of ordinary citizens.
The writer is chairman of Preserve Ramapo.