By Eli Ruiz
BLOOMINGBURG Close to 100 residents descended on Town of Mamakating Park last Wednesday for a strategy session stemming from some changes to the zoning of four parcels of land in the Town of Mamakating.
The town board is set to vote this evening at 6 p.m. on proposed changes to PO, or Planned Office, zones.
Two of the four such zoned parcels are located on Winterton Road in Bloomingburg, near the old Raymond Farm complex where Black Creek Holdings LLC developer Shalom Lamm gained approval in 2010 to build a 396-unit development. The high-density housing project is known as The Villages of Chestnut Ridge and was heavy on the minds of most of the attendees at Wednesday’s meeting, the majority of which, seemed to only recently find out about the huge project that has not only had the Village of Bloomingburg Board’s seal of approval for more than two years, but has also seemingly been in the works for more than five years.
“You have to remember that originally this was supposed to be only 150 luxury homes and a golf course,” said Holly Roche, an organizer of the meeting. “What people didn’t know was that it had morphed into this huge thing.”
Indeed, the original project, pitched by local developer Duane Roe, called for 150 luxury homes and a golf course development, only to change to high-density townhouses after the Department of Environmental Conservation required wetland buffers.
The third parcel in question lies just off Exit 115 on Route 17 at Roosa Gap Road and Burlingham Road in Bloomingburg. The last tract of land sits at the “spur” at the Yankee Lake entrance to Route 17 East.
Bill Hermann who lost a bid for Town of Mamakating Supervisor to current officeholder Harold Baird led a discussion of what he called “the decline of our town.”
As Hermann spoke, a petition against the proposed zoning changes made its way around the venue.
According to Hermann, the changes for usage being proposed in the current Planned Office land parcels “are allowed somewhere else in the town.”
Additional uses include gas stations, convenience stores, storage yards for contractors, vehicle garages, taverns, restaurants, retail stores and more. Uses that are allowed now, but would require special permits under the proposed changes, are for such things as medical offices, caged poultry farming, professional office and business park, distribution facilities and conference center.
Hermann wondered why the changes to the PO Zones were even necessary, if, as he noted, “At the last town board meeting I asked Supervisor Baird, ‘Is there a current applicant [for the tracts of land in question]?’ and he said ‘No.’”
Roche, one of the organizers of the “grassroots” Mamakating group along with Hermann and former Mamakating Councilman Teddy Brebbia, suggested that there was actually a specific letter of intent to change the zoning from one individual who owns the parcel on Burlingham Road.
“There was one individual who put in the one request and now the town board is responding to that individual,” said Roche, who later named local developer Duane Roe as the applicant in question. In fact, in March of 2011, said Roche, Roe was also the individual who put in the original request to have the PO Zones modified.
“He wants to build some sort of car/truck stop gas station type business at the Burlingham Road PO Zone,” said Roche.
Many questions still remain for the residents of the Town of Mamakating. Some, like Jack Daily, wonder when construction will begin on the Chestnut Ridge project.
Others, like Roche, Hermann and Brebbia are mobilizing for a long battle with a local government they believe has failed them.
Roche says that if the PO Zone modifications are approved tonight, she has retained an attorney with 25 years experience in zoning and environmental issues and fully intends to bring an Article 78 suit against the town board.
“I didn’t sign up for this when I moved here… they’re trying to destroy our rural way of life,” said Roche. “My biggest fear is that the PO Zones that straddle the Villages of Chestnut Ridge project is part of a larger plan to grow and develop this high-density housing in our area and beyond.”
“I don’t think this is a single development that’s coming… I think there is big change coming, and it’s not just going to be here, but also in the surrounding areas,” added Roche.
Tonight’s meeting will take place at Town of Mamakating Hall at 2948 Route 209 in Wurtsboro.