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New Castle Zoning Board Approves Mosque Special Permit

The New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals.
The New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- The New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals unanimously approved a special permit for the Upper Westchester Muslim Society's proposed mosque, video of its Nov. 24 meeting shows.

The approval ends what has been an eight-year saga for the society's application before the board. It was submitted in 2006 and underwent a lengthy environmental review.

At its October meeting, the board approved a findings statement for the project , which was the last document of its environmental review. Moments before the permit approval, the board approved an amended findings statement, which takes into account planning for a secondary septic system field.

The meeting video shows board members reading statements acknowledging both the work of the society and concerns from members of the public.

“I believe that the Upper Westchester Muslim Society has been diligent in its efforts to satisfy the concerns of the community by compromising the disturbance of the site and making a number of concessions and arrangements to ease traffic and other concerns of the neighbors," said board member Gerry Golub. "But I do not think they have actually achieved the effect of easing those concerns. The neighbors are still extremely anxious about a house of worship of this size, the scope and impact of this project, which they fear may create dangerous conditions in their neighborhood.”

Golub urged the society to “be continually sensitive to these concerns and that they take added precaution and care to ease the impacts of each of the steps taken to complete and operate this facility.”

The mosque, proposed to be around 25,000 square feet on a roughly eight-acre site at 130 Pinesbridge Road, has drawn opposition from nearby residents. Their concerns have included traffic, the potential for septic failure and environment impact to nearby Still Lake.

In October, Town Planner Sabrina Charney Hull discussed hydraulic connectivity and explained that the site is not connected to the lake.

The society proposes to have 120 parking spaces on site, with room for 15 more if needed. It also proposes using off-site parking from multiple locations, along with shuttle busing, for two major religious holidays. If the society is not able to secure enough off-site parking, then it proposes to cap attendance. Additionally, a widening of nearby Hoags Cross Road, currently a narrow corridor, is proposed to help with emergency traffic.

Society officials reacted at the meeting with thanks.

Ali Javed, chairman of the society's board, said they will work with the neighbors. He then said the proposed facility is a beneficial “added community center and to the benefit of all the neighbors there.”

Society board member Hussein Elzoghby said they have been diligent in trying to live the letter and spirit of the law. Regarding zoning board commentary on the project's impact, Elzoghby said their points are “not lost upon us.”

The society now needs approvals from the town's Planning Board for a steep-slope permit, a wetlands permit, a tree removal permit and a merger of the site's two parcels. The Planning Board is scheduled to take up the project on Dec. 15.

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