Spook Rock Yeshiva in Ramapo Vote gets pushed off due to civic involvement, board to vote at next hearing.

18,000 Square Foot Yeshiva Dormitory on Spook Rock road near East Stemmer Lane nearly passed planning board, read about it here.

BY CAROL MCILMURRAY

Presented at Ramapo Planning Board meeting for multiple lots. 294 and 296 Spook Rd. An 18,000 sq. ft. Yeshiva and dorm had neighbors exclaiming, “Where is the back of it?”

Ramapo-  Planning board meeting for the Spook Rock road Yeshiva and Dormitory was one of several Yeshiva’s on the agenda for the Tuesday, Feb 13. The week previous the Yeshiva notice went missing and contained seemingly illegible handwriting for the hearing date promoting these pictures to surface.

The massive 18,000 sq. ft. Yeshiva and living quarters are planned for the east side of Spook Rock between East Stemmer Lane and Highview Ave.

Both 294 and 296 Spook Rock Road are deeded over to Yeshiva Gedola of North Bergen Inc.

In March 2015, developers met with the board on behalf of the live-in Yeshiva, now to home 64 boys, at the same location. The plan did not get approval that time. Feb 13 was the second application to the board. The planning board failed to approve the plans in March 2015 due to very high turn out of opposing residents and numerous variances and special permits needed.

Other building plans are in early phases for an all-girls school to be built in very close proximity to the teenaged boys Spook Rock Yeshiva and Dormitory.

Planning Board Chairperson Sylvain Klein, was very impressed with the developer’s changes in the plans this time. He said he appreciated “that no variances were needed” in order to grant pass the planning phase. Klein did not speak about the Special Permit Planning Board having to grant because the area is zoned residential.

Special approval would be required to build a private school there.

Both 294 and 296 Spook Rock Road are deeded over to Yeshiva Gedola of North Bergen, according to Rockland’s Clerk Office. The owner listed on the Ramapo handwritten notice sign was the prior owner’s name, Ralph Merolle. Mercaz Hetalmud is listed as the applicant for the Yeshiva, a boys only school that plans on hosting 64 boys and the build out will have two other living quarters each 6,000 sq. ft in the massive 18k sq. ft. build. The two additional 6,000 square foot build out would be for single tenants attached to the tax-free property.

The changes presented on Feb 13th for the multi-lot yeshiva included a 50-ft tree barrier zone and large setback.

Before any speaker got up for the public comment section spoke Chairman Klien said, “There is to be no talk of property coming off the tax rolls, that is not what we are here for tonight.”

A group of seven to eight Spock Rock residents spoke on their own behalf about the special permit for the ‘Residential Zone-25’ citing legal premises and proposing compelling concerns for the teenaged boy’s safety when walking Route 59 late at night or any time of day. Other neighboring properties were concern about people using their yard as cut-throughs, which is trespassing and against the law.

Berman, while reviewing a previous Yeshiva property in Ramapo on the same night said to the planning board to “Let them build at their own risk…They are going to have to meet with and comply with Zoning Board and Building Inspector anyway.”

The comment received a lot of raised eyebrows from the crowd due to the former building inspector’s recent conviction. Anothy Mallia was alleged to failed to do inspections properly or at all in some cases.  He was charged with 148 felonies and 40 misdemeanors. Mallia did not win his case. Mallia was convicted on one felony count. He received 5 years of probation. He received no jail time for the conviction.

Ramapo corruption allegations resulted in several arrests of elected and other town officials.  Samuel Tress and Aaron Troodler and former Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence were each arrested just like Anothy Mellia.

A number of speakers from the ultra-orthodox jewish religous community spoke later in the public comment section. They asserted repeatedly that there are “fine young men who are the top of the top”, “exemplary young men who will cause absolutely no problems” and “the community is changing and it is your responsibility to meet these changing needs.”

Coincidentally, one of the speakers was a very large real estate developer in Ramapo, who is a big supporter of his communities building projects.  Three others did not live in unincorporated Ramapo or they lived miles away from the Spook Rock Road upbuild. One of the Hassidic speaker in favor 0f the new dorm was a Chesnut Ridge resident, another supporter was living in Airmont.

The six of seven planning board members belong to the orthodox Jewish communities.

First up to the podium was Warren Bird, one of several actual neighbors in opposition to the new private school. Bird, a local author, cited a lengthy town code and law that should be reviewed by the Planning Board before any decision is made.

Second, to the podium was Deb Munitz, who was cut off at the 5-minute mark by the Chairman at 5: 01-minutes in her speech. She was given additional time by several in attendance who proclaimed, “She is speaking for me!”,”and me!” and “me too!” was exclaimed by five or more people.

Deb Munitz, a community activist, questioned why there no tree markings or plans being made for trees wider than 4-8 inches wide to be earmarked. She said the property had to be marked with Orange flags to protect the tree barrier zone before construction begins.  The chairman said she could have 10-minutes then cut her off at 9:30-minute mark in her speech.

Klein and company were gleefully ready to pass the yeshiva after public comment but Alan Berman, Community Design Review Committee, was spurred to advise the planning board not to vote on it until the next hearing after the follow up on some of the public concern.

Why did Berman advise this?

Mutinz, who was cut of abruptly twice by Klein during her speech, was heavily cited by Alan Berman when giving counsel to meeting the legal requirements.  Berman reversed his initial opinion of seeming approval to address the new compliant about the planning phase.

Berman advised the planning board to hold off the vote until tree survey Munitz suggested was done.

A few comments from the town board prompted audible noise and comments from the crowd. Klien told dissenters to please stay quiet while the meeting was being conducted.

Many residents yelled they could not see the mock up picture of the current development in the late planning phases since it was placed directly at the Planning Boards feet and was not made visible for public display.

Tensions increased when Klien stated his admiration for the building design and town compliance.

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Several men and women called out, “Oh yeah, where is the back of it?” 18,000 sq. ft. are not visible in this design shown only toward members of the board, prompting a few Ramapo citizens to walk over and take a picture with their cellphones. 

Residents did not receive a response from the lawyer for the developers or the town board.

Bird, a local author and neighbor, said after the meeting concluded, “My reaction was mixed: gratitude that the board seemed to sincerely listen to the long litany of concerns by neighbors, but also fear that they had already made up their minds to largely disregard both their own Scenic Road Law and the desperate need for safety precautions for all the proposed pedestrians who will inevitably walk along that portion Spook Rock Road.

Thet current version of the Planning Board Agenda online here,

VIDEO CLIPS OF MEETING TO COME.

 

 

 

 

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