New Castle Mosque Plan Altered; Wednesday Hearings Scheduled

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A screen shot of the site plan for the Upper Westchester Muslim Society's proposed mosque, which is part of the applicant's submission to the town.
A screen shot of the site plan for the Upper Westchester Muslim Society's proposed mosque, which is part of the applicant's submission to the town. Photo Credit: Screen shot/John Meyer Consulting and KG&D

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- The proposal for the Upper Westchester Muslim Society's (UWMS) mosque in New Castle has been revised to include fewer on-site parking spaces and a larger landscaped setback, a document submission to the town shows.

The latest revision, detailed in the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), shows that the number of on-site parking spaces has been cut from 217 spaces, which includes tandem, to 120. Additionally, room for 15 additional spaces will be set aside, which means they will be “landbanked.” UWMS projects that up to 650 people will be at the site on two religious holidays per year, which are Eid ul-fitr and Eid ul-adha.  

To compensate for the cut in on-site parking, UWMS plans to use spaces from several nearby sites, the FEIS shows. Several of them are also religious sites in or near town, including the First Congregational Church of Chappaqua, Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester, the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco and Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers.

Non-religious sites could potentially be added, including Brookside Elementary School in Ossining and the Edith Macy Conference Center, which is west of downtown Chappaqua. According to the FEIS, there is an agreement in principle for use of the school while there is not yet a written agreement for the center.

UWMS also proposes giving tickets to people coming to the site for days where turnout comes toward the maximum. Valet parking, a feature of the earlier proposal version, has been dropped.

According to the FEIS, the landscaped setback change involves adding more room, extending the size from 20 feet to 40 feet, which faces northern neighboring properties.

The newest plan, the FEIS data show, also means that there will be a net of 18 trees added due to the project, versus a net of 164 removed in the earlier plan. In the case of the former, 121 trees would be removed but 139 would be added, although it would include trees with a smaller caliper.

The proposed mosque is for a site of roughly eight acres. The site is at 130 Pinesbridge Road, which is in western New Castle. It is in the Ossining postal area and school district. Some residents in the area have expressed concern about the proposal, with traffic impact, lighting and noise cited, according to records submitted as part of the FEIS.

UWMS is seeking a special permit for the project from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which is serving as lead agency for the environmental review. The FEIS was preceded by a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), which was the subject of a public hearing in 2012, according to records.

The ZBA is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the special permit, along with one on the FEIS, at its July 30 meeting. The meeting, which will be held at Town Hall in Chappaqua, starts at 7:15 p.m. but the hearings will not begin until 8:30 p.m. The ZBA voted to accept the FEIS earlier this month, according to video of its meeting.

Records of the proposal are available on the town's website.

Correction: The original version of this story listed Brookside Elementary School and the Edith Macy Conference Center as off-site parking locations. While both sites could potentially be used, there are no written agreements yet. The story has been updated to reflect this.

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Comments (5)

Please be realistic, this is a project that is enormous and will have a huge negative impact on the wetlands and lakes in the area as well as the quality of life of the residents in the area,

The Constitution protects our rights too.

Its very annoying when people spout rhetoric.

I think it's of good taste and should be allowed, I am not a Muslim, but you must know that this is of equality for humankind and their right to worship in the United States.

Its a project that is out of proportioned for the area it is proposed in. Everyone has the right to worship but all Americans have right, and the residents of this area are being ignored.

The project belongs in an area with easy access, and space that can handle all the cars. Our area if full of wetlands and lakes that will be compromised by the size of this development.

As a Tax paying resident of the Town of New Castle, I want to express my deep concern over the application by the Upper Westchester Muslim Society to build a mosque/cultural center at 130 Pinesbridge Road.

If their proposal for a 25,000 sq ft structure is approved, it would result in a building ten times the size of most homes in the area. The proposed parking lot and driveway, the resulting tree and vegetation removal and the structure itself present the risk of storm water runoff problems. And the proposed septic system, with Still Lake only 400 yards downhill, creates the risk of polluting the lake.

This enormous structure will be out of place in this neighborhood and it is bound to have a negative impact on resale values of homes in the area, which can be financially devastating to residents, especially after the recent downturn in home prices. These are two of the factors were cited by the Norwalk Zoning Commission in denying special permits to a house of worship in their 2012 decision .

The UWMS proposal is short sighted. I understand that their own projections show that this facility will reach its parking capacity by 2018. After that, how will they handle future growth?

It troubles me that the UWMS would consider placing such an enormous structure in a neighborhood where it would have such a negative environmental impact and where it would threaten the housing values of their neighbors. They are apparently not concerned since the vast majority (85%) of its members are not residents of the town. If the UWMS shows so little concern for the neighborhood now, while they are asking for a special permit, how they will act after they are established and their future growth has them bursting at the seams and threatening further environmental damage? More importantly, how will the Town respond when a decline in property values makes their further expansion even easier?

This is not about religious freedom. This is about protecting the community. Any large structure that creates a risk to the environment and the community should be opposed. Surely the UWMS can find more suitable property. There are plenty of empty catholic school buildings and industrial sites that would not have a negative environmental impact.

Once this is built, there will be no going back. There is a very real risk that Still Lake will become polluted and that declining property values will cause financial hardship for many New Castle families.

New CAstle should be aligned with the interest of its tax paying citizens,freedom of religion does not allow for the impairment of a neighborhood. The government should protect its citizens. Instead of bending over backwards to accommodate non-taxpaying entities.

How much damage to our eco-system will the Board accept before it sees a sufficient reason to act? Once the project becomes a reality, it’s too late to turn back.

Julie...I think this is a great example of the freedom to worship and religion, Amendment 1 of the United States Constitution, "Congress shall make no law respecting and establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"
I see this as a positive move!