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New Castle Planning Board Takes Up Proposed Mosque

New Castle Planning Board members at their Dec. 15 meeting.
New Castle Planning Board members at their Dec. 15 meeting. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. -- New Castle’s Planning Board has started its review of the Upper Westchester Muslim Society’s proposed mosque.

Board members held a discssion of the project, which is called an informal hearing, at their Dec. 15 meeting.

The society is seeking several approvals from the board, including for a tree-removal permit, a steep-slope permit, a wetlands permit, a stormwater pollution prevention plan and a merger of the property’s two lots.

The review came weeks after the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals approved a special permit for the project on Nov. 24 , an action that was repeatedly referenced at the Planning Board's meeting.

Although the Zoning Board conducted an environmental review, the Planning Board will have its own findings statement, according to Town Attorney Nicholas Ward-Willis. However, the project’s environmental impact statement will not be revisited.  The Zoning Board approved its findings statement in October, which an attorney for the society referenced repeatedly at the Planning Board’s meeting.

The attorney, Daniel Richmond, provided an overview of the project’s aspects that pertain to the Planning Board’s jurisdiction. Richmond explained that the project will not disturb wetlands. He added that there would be some disturbance of buffer space, although most of it has already been disturbed. Three on-site wetlands would be connected, according to Richmond, which would help to minimize invasive species’ impacts and to offer potential habitat for wetlands species.

There appeared to be some confusion regarding replacement of trees that would be removed. It was unclear at the meeting whether new trees would be double-counted for mitigation of tree removal and for wetlands. Ward-Willis offered to look into the matter. There was also some uncertainly about data regarding tree caliper inches involved in the project.

At another point, Richmond explained that proposed retaining walls are new steep slopes. A woman working on the society’s project team said that the walls are being proposed to reducing grading into the buffer and to keep the development separate from wetland buffer areas that they are trying to restore.

Board member Thomas Curley pushed for consideration of planting more trees on site, citing their purpose in screening the building and its lights. Richmond expressed his client’s preference for doing so.

The mosque is proposed to be about 25,000 square feet and about be located on a roughly eight-acre site at 130 Pinesbridge Road. Neighbors have voiced opposition to the project, citing traffic concerns and that nearby Still Lake could be adversely affected by runoff.

The Planning Board voted to schedule a public hearing for Jan. 20, although it is conditioned upon the society having sufficient material submitted in advance.

Daily Voice's previous coverage of the society's proposed mosque is available here.

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