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New Castle Mosque Faces Environmental Hurdles

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. - Buffer zones and tree impacts were the focus of a discussion last week when Upper Westchester Muslim Society (UWMS) officials met with the New Castle Planning Board during a work session regarding a proposed mosque on Pinesbridge Road.

According Michael Zarion, the UWMS' attorney, the application will require several permits for environmental protection overlay, tree conservation and steep slopes before it can be approved.

Zarion said 192 town regulated trees - four inches or greater - will be removed from the property during construction. While UWMS will be adding 32 new "specimen trees," he said not all of the 192 trees will be replaced.

“We’re preserving as many trees as we can within the disturbed area," Zarion said. "But certainly there’s a not a one-to-one placement and frankly we’re not proposing to meet your mitigation.”

To meet the mitigation, UWMS would need to plant 200 four-inch trees. Zarion said the size of the property would not be big enough to meet the number and the cost would be approximately $80,000.

Zarion also said the project will be effecting 2.06 acres of the property's 4.63 acres of buffer zone. A buffer zone is an area alongside wetlands that protects water resources by filtering and contaminants from surface runoff water.

To reduce the effect on buffer zones and trees, several board members suggested cutting back the amount of parking spaces on the site. The proposal currently includes 121 regular and 79 overflow spaces, for a total of 200.

UWMS officials said all 200 spaces will rarely be used, but were included to account for the number of attendees on the two main Islamic holidays, Ramadan and Hajj. Town attorney Lester Steinman said UWMS could work with other religious groups in town to find off-site parking on the holidays and then use shuttle buses.

"We’re trying to minimize environmental impacts," said board chair Richard Brownell. "You said $80,000 is too much. My sense is that if you can reduce the amount of money you’re putting into the parking area, then you’ll have money to buy the trees. So that really works out well.”

Brownell and other board members visited the property Monday and will meet again with UWMS officials during a special 5 p.m. work session Tuesday night at New Castle Town Hall. UWMS was also asked to carry out further analysis on screening and noise.

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