Zoning board hearing on impacts of proposed mosque draws a crowd of 150

hearing
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.

map
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.


map
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:
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

The DEIS may be viewed and downloaded from the following link:

http://www.johnmeyerconsulting.com/uwms/DEIS
________________________

Related: Zoning board holds public hearing on Pinesbridge Road mosque, NCNOW.org, 6/25/12

Zoning Board hears preliminary report on DEIS prepared for proposed mosque in West End, NCNOW.org, 4/29/11

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).

Town of New Castle Zoning Board Meeting 6/27/12 from New Castle Media Center on Vimeo.


Comments(13):
We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Hoags Cross road is not meant for business traffic, it’s a residential pass through and it would be a nightmare to deal with the increased travel, fumes and noise more traffic would bring. We all know that applications for businesses in residential areas sound so peaceful and serene.. lots of plantings, no call to prayer, not a problem for parking etc., but the reality is, if and when it’s erected..there’s no going back. When these promises are broken, and the neighbors feel violated the facility will pay a fine or say we’re discriminating. 
To suggest that “carting” your kids to religious school one town away is a hardship is nonsensical.

Part of being part of community is thinking about that community..and building a mosque or any other business would be detrimental to our quiet community. Do we have any buildings in the business section of town that would make sense?

By Cookie on 07/02/2012 at 9:47 am

“cart their children to Mt. Kisco for religious education”
Since most of them do not live here, they will be “carting” to New Castle! Why not choose an area with better transportation and roads like Mt. Kisco, Ossining or Peekskill.

By poor arguement on 07/02/2012 at 10:52 am

Everyone is afraid to speak up and state the obvious truth.  Read Hirsi Ali’s book, INFIDEL.

Look at the picture of Muslim women swathed in inappropriate clothing for summer heat and the way the men are dressed. It says it all.

All religious fundamentalism, whether it is practiced in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, oppresses women. 

Don’t tell me that it is a venerable institution going back many centuries, so does the institution of slavery.

Don’t tell me that all have a right to their own traditions and practices—examine some of those deadly practices that still go on in certain cultures such as: clitoral mutilation of little girls, stoning to death of women suspected of adultery, “honor” killings by fathers and brothers of girls who have been rape victims. Shockingly, honor killings occur in this country and other Western nations not just in the countries with Sharia Law.

Don’t tell me that Muslim women freely choose this lifestyle, it is inculcated in them by the community the same way it occurs in cults.(There has been much literature on this subject.) As my sisters, I mourn their inequality and urge them to read Hirsi Ali’s story.

In Saudi Arabia, when our female troops went over to defend that country, they were not allowed off their military base because they were not veiled and appropriately attired, they wore their military uniforms as soldiers should.

We women and enlightened men have worked so hard to advance our human rights, both legally and culturally, in consonance with the Enlightenment credo of universal equality. It is shameful that we have to witness this medieval reversal.

At what point does religion become a cult?  When in crosses the line and endorses the surrender and violation of individual human rights under the guise of religious doctrine.

By No Mosque on 07/02/2012 at 2:27 pm

Those comments are absolutely uncalled for. While I am opposed to having the mosque in that place, it is bigoted and ignorant to say that these people have no right to worship because of a vocal minority in that religion. It doesn’t matter if there are certain customs that you disagree with, I disagree with them too. It is absolutely preposterous to say that they cannot gather to worship simply because of their religious beliefs.

By @No Mosque on 07/02/2012 at 11:43 pm

We have many Planning issues that are affecting different parts of our Municipality. As we all know, The Town of New Castle is made up of Chappaqua, Millwood, and Stanwood. Our Planning Department is tackling Chappaqua Crossing, CONIFER Affordable Housing, Millwood Firehouse, The Mosque Application, Downtown Chappaqua Plan, and a whole host of other major issues. I call for a 4 month MORATORIUM, to be extended 2 months at a time, up to 3 extensions of 2 month periods each. We have an extremely good Planner, but we also have too many issues that have to be looked at for the best interest of placing forth great Planning. Maybe the ideal location for the Mosque would be up at Chappaqua Crossing? Maybe IBM could buy the property that UWMS purchased, and then place it into a Land Conservancy? Perhaps the Mosque belongs on the site of D O T near Taconic - Good idea! We need our Town Planner to help out; she is more then capable. We also need to give her the ability to make certain promises! What does everyone think?

By People ! on 07/03/2012 at 11:39 am

It is not in my backyard, so I should not care. I am not religious; but can tolerate peoples right to believe. However this area is zoned 2 acre residential for a reason. It is rural, quiet and can not absorb effluents from more than about 5 people/2 acres. The roads can not handle 100s of cars coming several times a day for prayer/education.
There must be a more appropriate place to build such facilities.

By Not the right place on 07/03/2012 at 11:40 am

If this mosque is approved it will be the only one in Westchester County. 

Visit:  http://WWW.UWMS.org This will tell you what to expect if the mosque is approved, and by the way 3 of the ZBA members have yet to visit the site.

By WDM on 07/04/2012 at 7:13 am

No matter how we look at this issue, it is going to be very expensive towards one designated group of people. If the Mosque is approved where planned, this will destroy appraisal values for single family homes that wish to refinance; a lower appraisal will be gernerated. This is an indirect expense for single family homes in the area. If the Town rejects the application, then all of New Castle taxpayers will pay through the escalation of property taxes to pay a huge legal bill. If the Plan is rejected, and the Town tells UWMS that they will fast track working with them on another site of their chosing, then it will cost UWMS money and time; but maybe not if they understand that they can be kept inside Town Hall for quite sometime. Everything has a value! Question - did UWMS buy the property subject to approvals, and who was the previous owner, and did he make any promises to UWMS that they would be approved? I would like to see the terms and conditions of the purchase agreement / contract of sale between the Seller and the Buyer. Who represented the original Sale of the property, and are they now part of the approval process?

By Very expensive! on 07/05/2012 at 2:22 pm

Dear NewCastleNow.org,

I have seen many wonderful postings of opinions throughout the years posted on your site that were either pro or con on certain issues as reported through your Website. I would like to suggest that you designate a staff member who is responsible for finding answers to questions raised in the content of the opinions or expressions, and thoughts, that were posted. Take the top 20 questions of the week that can be found within the submitted comments that you receive and do investigative reporting on getting to the answers. Just an idea! Have an Investigative section to your website.

By Investigative reporter needed on 07/05/2012 at 2:37 pm

Dear WDM,
You say “If this mosque is approved it will be the only one in Westchester County.
Visit:  http://WWW.UWMS.org This will tell you what to expect if the mosque is approved, and by the way 3 of the ZBA members have yet to visit the site.
By WDM on 07/04/2012 at 6:13 am”

If I were planning the first mosque in Westchester County, New Castle will not be on top of my list as a suitable location. I went to your site and did not see any thing that would enlighten me. If you looked at the most convenient place for your overall membership, I bet it is not 130 Pinesbridge RD. So the question is why???

By Not a reasonable request on 07/06/2012 at 12:21 pm

If the Town denies the application, I would expect a very costly lawsuit to be filed under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

Municipalities almost always lose these cases. It’s not going to be easy arguing that the increased traffic on Hoags Cross Road will be a problem when the Town has already built a soccer field (and plans to expand) on the Amsterdam property. If driving kids from the other side of town to the Amsterdam fields for soccer games on the weekend is OK for those roads, driving from outside of town for religious services isn’t really much different (and soccer games are not specifically protected by federal law).

UWMS is going to build their Mosque on their property whether the neighbors like it or not. Just like the CCSD built Seven Bridges School despite neighbors’ objections and just like Summit Greenfield is going to build at Chappaqua Crossing. The only question now is how many taxpayer dollars will the neighbors bully the Town into spending on an attempt to stop the inevitable.

By West Ender on 07/06/2012 at 2:01 pm

I have watched several Zoning Board meetings and it amazes me how they bend over backwards for neighbors’ concerns when the applicant is requesting a variance.  I hope to see the same accommodation given here.

Has anyone questioned the architect’s rendering of the building?  It appears NOT to reflect the scale of the building and correct proportions.  I hope the Zoning Board members realize this and request an accurate rendition, or may I suggest that UWMS present a 3 dimensional rendition so that accurate viewing can be made.  A project of this scope deserves this.  The proposed building does not sit parallel to the road and has a greater depth than what is pictured.  The current drawing can be viewed on page 47 of the Executive Summary:  http://www.johnmeyerconsulting.com/uwms/DEIS/I_Executive_Summary.pdf

I urge people to read the “Description of the Proposed Action” starting at page 5.  It identifies number of anticipated participants and please pay special attention to #6 - preschoolers.  They say they will not have outside activities = with 150 kids how is that possible?  However, in other sections, they say that it will only be 30 children (17 classrooms with 12 person capacity in each).  They base their data on 10-85 adult worshipers - I would like to see similar data for maximum capacity.  There’s a heck of a lot of daily traffic!  It would also be so easy to do a video simulation of this traffic.  Maybe then the Zoning Board would appreciate the negative impact that will have on a rural area. 

Please Zoning Board, have the guts to tell them to scale it down significantly.

 

 

 

By watching on 07/08/2012 at 9:49 am

How do we know this mosque wont be a breading ground for Islamic Radicalism? Look at the violent protests around the world by Islamists over film lets not run to bring a mega Mosque which could preach Islamic Supremecy to the area.

By Patriot on 09/23/2012 at 11:10 pm


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