Zoning board hearing on impacts of proposed mosque draws a crowd of 150
Monday, July 2, 2012
by Adriana Miano
As the Upper Westchester Muslim Society (UWMS) enters into the sixth year of the application process to build a mosque in New Castle, debate over the impacts of the proposed worship center continued last Wednesday as the zoning board of appeals proceeded with its environmental review of the project.
Around 150 New Castle residents gathered in the assembly room at Town Hall on June 27 for a public hearing before the zoning board of appeals on the UWMS’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS), during which supporters and opponents voiced their opinions on the project.
Meredith Black, the attorney for the Upper Westchester Muslim Society, or UWMS, opened the meeting with an explanation of how the plan for the mosque takes into account the needs of the environment at its 130 Pinesbridge Road site.
“UWMS is dedicated to serving the Muslim community, and building bridges with other faiths and communities,” Black said in her statement. Several representatives from New Castle’s Interfaith Council—including Rev. Tom Lenhart of the First Congregational Church of Chappaqua, Rev. Joel Mason of St. Mary the Virgin Episcopal Church and Geoff Mitelman, Associate Rabbi of Temple Beth El—attended the hearing to support the application.
All parking needs will be accommodated on-site, and neighborhood aesthetics will be maintained by a series of plantings which will act as visual screens between the mosque and its neighbors, according to Black.
Additionally, UWMS has agreed to refrain from external calls to prayer, and from building outdoor recreational areas, to reduce excess sound.
The proposed mosque is a two-story building of 24,690 square feet set on 8.33 acres of land, and is intended to accommodate both prayer services and religious education.
One house sits to the north of the site, one to the south.
Residents of Pinesbridge Road, and the nearby Hoags Cross Road expressed concern that the building will be disruptive to the two-acre zoned residential area, citing the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, which calls for an examination of the “cumulative impact” of any proposed project.
“The construction of a massive house of worship to service a ‘community,’ where 84% of the stated congregants reside outside of the Town…will overload the local environment’s ability to manage, retain and recharge storm water and will thus work a significant environmental detriment,” Ronald Steinvurzel, a resident of Hoags Cross Road wrote in a statement to the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Additionally, residents emphasized their dismay over the potential disruption of traffic patterns in their neighborhood.
The site of the proposed mosque is the dark triangular spot labeled “SITE.”
“The effect on Pinesbridge Road and on Hoags Cross (on which at least 15% of the vehicular traffic is projected to travel) would be nothing short of catastrophic,” Steinvurzel wrote. He told zoning board members that two cars can barely pass one another on Hoags Cross Road.
Throughout the evening, supporters of the mosque urged members of the zoning board to look past these potential impacts, as they believe the interruptions will be significant only during the Islam’s two annual holy days.
Supporters of the proposed mosque testified that after decades of having to drive long distances to worship in a warehouse, celebrate high holy days in hotels, and cart their children to Mt. Kisco for religious education, New Castle’s Muslim community is more than eager for a space to call their own.
The hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) remains open and will continue before the zoning board on July 25. Once that board closes the public hearing, the applicant will respond in a “Final Environmental Impact Statement,” or FEIS, to relevant issues raised during the hearing phase.
Comments may also be submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals by mail addressed to:
Zoning Board of Appeals
New Castle Town Hall
200 South Greeley Avenue,
Chappaqua, New York 10514
Or by email, to the following address:
The DEIS may be viewed and downloaded from the following link:
Related: Zoning board holds public hearing on Pinesbridge Road mosque, NCNOW.org, 6/25/12
The video of the zoning board’s meeting begins with other ZBA matters; the hearing on the DEIS begins at the 30-minute mark (advance the video by means of the cursor at the bottom of the screen).