To: Editor Rockland Voice
From: County Legislator Cris Carey
Subject: Fighting Overdevelopment Of Pascack Ridge In Ramapo
In 2015, I wrote an article for this publication in which I expressed my opposition to the construction of 294 homes on a tract of land in Spring Valley known as Pascack Ridge which sits directly on the Clarkstown border. Once again, proposed development projects on this site are in the spotlight. This time around two developers are seeking changes to Ramapo’s Comprehensive Plan in order to obtain the zoning changes needed to build high density housing on this property.
I, along with many others, spoke at a packed meeting before the Ramapo Planning Board in January, 2015 in opposition to the zoning changes the last proposed project would have required. This was not the only meeting which I attended and spoke at, but it was the most publicized one,and many of my fellow residents and politicians voiced strong opposition to the project with a series of legitimate concerns.
Ramapo will be holding another public hearing and I am hoping we can drum up the same level of turnout that was present at the 2015 meetings. I was planning to speak at the meeting scheduled for July, 12, 2018 but, as Ramapo is known to do, the meeting was postponed. Unless it moves again, I am planning on speaking on the current scheduled date of August 15, 2018. I realize some might need a refresher on this issue, and I will try to do so as succinctly as possible.
Here’s what exists now and what is currently being proposed:
The 28 acre site is currently zoned for medium density housing allowing approximately 3 homes per acre. The property as it exists today is wooded and contains wetlands, flood plains, steep slopes, and the Pascack Brook runs through it. Likely for these specific reasons, Ramapo’s current Comprehensive Plan states the parcel should remain zoned for to 3 homes per acre.
The developers are asking Ramapo to change its Comprehensive Plan to alter the zoning designation to multi-family residential, which would allow up to 12 units per acre. The specific details of the proposed project keep changing, but the most recent article on the proposed development published by Our Town states the plans currently call for 290 housing units.
The breakdown and layout of the proposed housing units may have changed since 2015, but the density per acre has not and neither have my reasons for opposing this high density development in the first place.
The main issue at hand is primarily one of overdevelopment. The parcel of land itself s clearly ill-suited for the density of homes being proposed. The back of the property slopes steeply from Spring Valley toward Clarkstown and such a dramatic increase in impervious ground is likely to create severe drainage and flooding issues in the area.
As previously mentioned, the Pascack Brook runs through this property. The brook is a New York State protected stream and is also a tributary to the United Water System reservoirs serving Bergen County, New Jersey. There is also a utility easement for Orange & Rockland on the parcel. Any of these factors alone, including the section of wetlands, would be relatively problematic for the scope of development proposed here. When combined, these factors should raise a series of red flags that should stop the project before it starts, but the developers say otherwise.
The developers have submitted a Draft Environmental Impact Study (DEIS) claiming that the project will completely avoid the wetlands, and essentially states there will be no negative impact on the environment. Based on the factors outlined above, I find this extremely difficult to believe, and I’m not alone in that assessment.
The Town Of Clarkstown has raised several concerns which I share regarding the DEIS. In addition to the environmental concerns, the study fails to say what authority will oversee the inspection and maintenance of the drainage systems. Clarkstown estimates the water demand for the project is underestimated by 10,000 gallons per day, and the study incorrectly lists the property’s roadway connections in an apparently flawed effort to show increased traffic can be handled.
Thankfully there are some additional hurdles that exist in the event Ramapo grants the zoning changes needed to move the project along. The project plans on connecting to the water supply via a water line on Spring Brook Road which would require permits from Clarkstown.
Also, County Executive Ed Day has made it very clear that the County will do everything in its limited control to make sure the project’s potential approval by the Town Of Ramapo is done in accordance with the laws in which the County has jurisdiction. If not, the project may not be able to obtain the water and sewer permits issued by the County it would need to be viable.
Still, the Town Of Ramapo is the primary authority here and it is the Town’s responsibility to make the proper decision and deny this zoning change before any other municipalities have to become entangled in this inappropriate project.
Overdevelopment was one of the top concerns of my constituents in 2015, and it remains so today. My objections to this project detailed here echo the concerns raised by many others. The land is simply not appropriate to support the proposed housing density. The DEIS report appears to be greatly flawed, and Ramapo’s existing Comprehensive Plan recommends keeping the density low for reasons supported by pure common sense.
The impact of overdevelopment in one area affects all of us. Our natural resources and infrastructure can only sustain so much growth before they are taxed beyond their capacities. Growth and change are inevitable, but we must ensure that development is done in a sustainable and responsible manner.
In my view, the Pascack Ridge project as proposed is irresponsible on far too many levels and I will do everything I can to oppose its approval.
Please consider attending the scheduled public hearing on August 15 to add your voice to those of us opposing this development.
Rockland County Legislator