RAMAPO–January 31, 2020
“The Zoning Board of Appeals has approved the hotly contested 15-unit Bluefield Extension project despite opponents’ claims that a state judge’s ruling blocked the construction.
Supervisor Michael Specht and ZBA attorney Alyssa Slater said the judge’s decision annulling the variances allowed the builder to reapply to the land-use board.
Specht, a former ZBA attorney, said the board voted Thursday night on an application updated in 2019, though opponents took issue that the update cured the violations cited by the judge.
The board’s 5-0 decision would allow the owner to build multiple-family housing on approximately one acre off Union Road, just across from the massive Bluefield complex of multiple family townhouses.
The development would introduce more multiple-family housing to an area of predominately single-family homes, according to leaders of the Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhood, known as CUPON, and a local homeowner.
CUPON’s leaders and attorney claim acting Supreme Court Justice Sherri Eisenpress’ ruling on Jan. 6 voided the project’s prior zoning board variances for not properly dealing with the county planning department’s opposition. Eisenpress has twice ruled for CUPON and a homeowner’s efforts to block the project.
The ZBA properly overrode the county’s specific objections to the project on Thursday after not doing so during a December vote, Specht and Slater said.
CUPON-Hillcrest leader Micheal Miller and group attorney Susan Shapiro disagreed. Miller said the group is considering options, including taking the board back before Eisenpress for not following general municipal law.
“It is frustrating and disturbing to see the ZBA rubber-stamp the override of the Rockland County Planning Department’s GML recommendation for Bluefield Extension by relying solely on the developers statement, and ignoring the detailed arguments raised by the public in opposition,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro said the board’s attorney failed to tell ZBA members about Eisenpress’ decision annulling the prior use and area variances. She said she was blocked from giving the board members notice of the ruling, especially since the Rockland Planning Department warned the board that current referral for the new application is incomplete.
The root of divisiveness
Shapiro noted zoning and violations of the housing codes were major complaints on what’s causing divisiveness in Ramapo and across the county during a recent summit led by the county’s five supervisors.
“Ramapo keeps throwing napalm onto the fire,” Shapiro said.”
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