The Good is that Councilman Finn made a motion to charge no admission to the town pool for this coming year, and rely for income on the money generated by swimming lessons, given by the lifeguards the town employs anyway. Councilman Finn then proposed to remove the charge for using the pavilions at the town parks, which was a controversial issue last year. These motioned passed.
Lets hear it for Mr. Finn and the town board!
The Bad is that SPACE member Frank Collyer was passed over yet again for an opening on the Planning Board in favor of a builder, which one might liken to hiring a fox to guard the henhouse. After a year or two learning period this person might become an effective member (unless this is just a stepping-stone to elected office). Collyer had been a Planning Board member in the past; has attended most Planning Board meetings over the last two decades, and has al the required (and suggested) training necessary and could be an effective member immediately. In a town that has seen a great many planning blunders, life goes on like 1950...
With the Master Plan a current hot issue in town, it might be good to take a look at what forgotten beasts still lurk in the shadows. The first to come out of hiding is Senior Townhouses. This was al the rage during the Jobson administration when it spot-zoned a piece of the Kay-Fries Light Industrial zone to Senior Housing, a gift to the well-connected Republican Weinberg family, who got permission from the town to construct an 88 unit senior housing complex on the southeast corner of the Kay-Fries Drive/Rt. 9W intersection in an area that had heretofore been part of the Light Industrial Zone. SPACE and some residents, including a factory across the street from the property opposed this because housing was not a good fit with industrial neighbors. The factory, which produces lighting and has been a taxpayer in Stony Point for some 40 years was concerned that the noise regularly produced by their manufacturing process would be an ongoing point of contention with the residents of the housing project.
This stunningly bad idea was made even worse by the Marino administration's gift to developer Patrick Magee of a Special Permit to allow him to construct a shopping center in the LI zone, just down the street from the proposed Senior housing. Now this senior housing project would have as a major concern, substantial traffic (according to thepapers submitted by ShopRite/Crossroads, as much as 400 trips per hour) at the intersection between Kay-Fries Drive and Rt. 9W, where the entrance to their parking would be located.
About the same time, a company titled "Nic-Nic" wanted to put 60 units of "Senior" housing at the old Marvello swim club site, paying no heed to the fact that the amenities necessary for Senior Housing, nearby transportation, shopping and healthcare (these are mandated by HUD) were nowhere to be had in the proposed area. This would have set a precedent that could be applied to the entire RR Zone. Fortunately, this beast was dispatched by the PIP Commission, which stated that the development would be visible from the Parkway - a PIP. no-no and refused to approve it.
But some Bad Ideas get a life of their own, and townhouses/condos in the Rural-Residential Zone is one of them. Earlier this year, local developer Marty Feldi came to the town board and asked it to consider allowing him to construct townhouses on a piece of property he owns off the north end of Jessup's Lane. This property has already been granted approval as an 8-lot subdivision, with the standard RR Zone lot size of 60,000 square feet. Marty can't sell houses in this market so he wants the town to bail him out and allow him to build 18 townhouses instead. As some on the town board perceived, this could set a precedent for the rest of the RR (Rural-Residential) Zone, and asked the planning office how many other parcels would become eligible. They came back to the April meeting with the information that 12 lots could qualify, although groups of lots could be assembled for this purpose, and many more if the developer brought in sewer and water. Local residents from Jessups Lane heard about this and showed up in force, and loudly spoke up against this plan stating that they had purchased property in this area because of its very rural nature and objected to seeing this changed.
Feldi the developer had stated that his proposal would attract "snowbirds"; seniors that spend the winter in Florida but come up north in the summer to be with relatives and friends. While thugs sounds nice, there is no guarantee that is who would buy these units; young families with kids could get in, bringing more kids into an already expensive school system. A few years ago, ski industry giant Intermountain West bought the Mountain Creek ski area (nee Great Gorge/Vernon Valley) and build a large number of condos it "intended" to sell to skiers. A large number of the units were sold to young families with kids bringing consternation to the local Vernon NJ school system, which had questioned the project. Feldi had proposed a similar scheme a few years ago for a tract of land he is seeking to develop at the end of JFK Drive. He wanted to change the zoning there from conventional RR to attached housing which he felt could be more "affordable", a similar scenario to the Jessups Lane plan. No one seems to stop and think what "affordable"actually means in a town where a building lot costs a quarter of a million dollars.
So, do we need townhouses/condos/"affordable" housing? Very likely, but "where" is the question. If it is actually true that these units would sell primarily to seniors, where should they be located? The Federal government's HUD (Housing & Urban Development) states that senior (55-and-above) housing should be near public transportation, as many seniors don't drive; near shopping and healthcare for the same reason. Neither of Feldi's proposals come close to conforming to that. It seems reasonable that a real*, responsible Master Plan Committee would consider this type of housing along the Liberty Drive (Rt.9W) corridor. Possibly even allowing and encouraging multi-use development where there are apartments above retail shopping.
At the town board meeting, discussion went on with a report on how to accomplish the zone change form the town planner, Robert Geneslaw who outlined the mechanism for it. After angry protests from the Jessups area residents, Councilwoman Konopko stated the she believed this was a blueprint for overdevelopment. This was welcomed by a round of applause from most of the residents attending the meeting. It appears, that for now, a stake has been driven through the heart of this beast.
Some of the "mechanisms" described by Mr. Geneslaw would involve "special" zones; like floating zones, incentive zones, and the ever-popular Special Permit, all of which are just dodges around what is really spot zoning. One wonders what the effect of all these exceptions from the existing Master Plan will have. There are those out there who will say, justifiably, that Stony Point allows anything - just look at their record! Think of how certain people down in Ramapo easily get their way to construct apartment buildings and special schools. It is incumbent on our town leadership to ensure that our zoning codes are tight enough to prevent catastrophes like .Patrick Farm. (Read about Patrick Farm here.)
Also discussed at some length, and illustrated by a presentation from an engineering company hired to create the plan, is a plan that appears to... rehabilitate a drainage pipe on town land that drains developer (see above) Patrick Magee's ShopRite shopping center. Not only did the town make a gift worth hundreds of thousands of dollars by spot-zoning —excuse us— granting a Special Permit (we contend it was created illegally by the town board in 2006 specifically for him—read more here) but now is going to spend around $200,000 to improve the drainage for Magee's land. There is no information on the town's website; no plans, maps or narrative of the project, but if what was outlined at the town Board meeting is as discussed, the town appears to be making another gift. SPACE had joined with local residents in a lawsuit aginst the town because of the illegal Special Permit and the many unanswered questions (not just us!) raised during the review process for the ShopRite application. The suit was dismissed on a tecnicality, but the issues are still unaddressed.
But, as the Shadow from the 1950's radio show always stated: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?"…
* NOT political appointees that are endorsed by developers!