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Zoning Board Closes New Castle Mosque Public Hearings

Turnout was high for a New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals meeting regarding the proposed mosque.
Turnout was high for a New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals meeting regarding the proposed mosque. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- New Castle’s Zoning Board of Appeals voted Monday, Sept. 22 to close a pair of public hearing pertaining to the Upper Westchester Muslim Society’s proposed mosque for a site located in the West End of town.

The ZBA closed a hearing for the project’s Final Environmental Impact Statement and a hearing for the proposal’s special permit. The board’s approval of the permit is required for the proposal.

The FEIS is part of the project’s environmental review, with the next document, called a findings statement, being the last one for it. ZBA Chairman Kenneth Cooper anticipates that a draft findings statement will be received before the next meeting of the board, which is scheduled for October. Additionally, he disclosed that a draft special permit resolution will be prepared. The resolution is for the board’s vote on the matter.

Although the hearings have been closed, Cooper noted that the public will have 10 days to submit written correspondence.

The board’s vote came after a split public reaction from both supporters and opponents of the UWMS mosque, which is proposed to be nearly 25,000 square feet and for a site that is over eight acres.

The mosque, which would be located at 130 Pinesbridge Road, would have 120 parking spaces, with 15 allotted for landbanking. Additionally, UWMS proposes to have several locations for off-site parking, which would be needed for two high holy days.

Michael Zarin, an attorney for UWMS, explained at the meeting that there is a requirement 45 days in advance to give the town commitment letters for parking. If there is not enough off-site parking, according to Zarin, then attendance will be limited and people who do not have tickets will not be let in.

Zarin also took time to provide rebuttals to concerns previously raised about the project, which include matters about septic and wetlands. Addressing concern about flow to a nearby lake, Zarin brought up a determination from New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection that the site is not within the city’s watershed and drains to the southeast and south. Zarin noted that the DEP “takes these issues seriously.”

The attorney also addressed septic flow standards from the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which has new standards. Zarin’s presentation notes that the project’s design will be to current ones. Zarin also mentioned that approval is needed from Westchester County’s Department of Health. Additionally, the attorney brought up a proposed widening of a section of Hoags Cross Road, which would be to allow for vehicles to pull over when there are emergency vehicles comng.

Speakers had mixed reactions, with West End residents citing concerns about traffic, pollution, safety and property values. Some were also skeptical about the water flow.

Multiple residents denied that religion was a reason for concern, but rather it was the project’s scale.

“It doesn’t matter what it is,” said Toby Maranga.

Resident Denise Koller expressed concern about the lake being safe from flow, even after Zarin’s presentation.

““The lake is our treasure,” she said.

UWMS member Ola Nosseir described the infrequency of major traffic for UWMS, noting that it is only two days of the year. She also touched on its interfaith involvement.

“We don’t isolate ourselves,” she said.

Several supporters spoke favorably of the character of the congregation. Some discussed its interfaith involvement, while others addressed the current facility's inadequacy, a Thornwood warehouse.

“You could not ask for better neighbors,” said Karin Young Shiel, who is a board member of the Westchester Youth Alliance, an interfaith organization.

Previous coverage is available here.

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