GREENBURGH, N.Y. – A state Supreme Court judge ruled this week that multifamily housing can be built near the Greenburgh Nature Center as a result of an error on a town zoning map.
The mistake, made in 1998, could increase enrollment in the Edgemont School District and affect the ecosystem of the Greenburgh Nature Center. The ruling will allow a multifamily housing complex, boasting 82 bedrooms to be built on 2.26 acres of land next to the nature center. The land, which had been zoned for single-family housing until a town employee's error changed the designation on a town map, was purchased in 2006. While the error was found after the housing complex was purchased in 2006, the proper procedures were not followed to legally correct the map.
"As to the zoning board of appeals' finding that the 2006 map had carried forward an error from the 1999 map, the finding was not based on evidence but was arbitrary and capricious, based on community pressure and bad faith," state Supreme Court Judge Gerald Loehr wrote in an eight-page ruling issued Tuesday.
The redevelopment could cause a rise in population and increase in road and foot traffic for Edgemont schools, town Supervisor Paul Feiner. The Greenburgh Nature Center's 40-acre property's environment could be threatened with the construction, as well as the safety of their animals, said Courtney White, executive director of the nature center.
"We're very disappointed," White said. "We're also very concerned about losing green space. When developing more land, it would take away from green space in an area that's already so developed. It's definitely a concern. We want it to be safe and easy for people to visit here. We want to be celebrating the green spaces that we have and the life that it supports in this area."
White also stated that the Nature Center is concerned about the potential traffic coming from Dromore Road when the multi-family housing complex is built. Dromore Road is very narrow and acquires a lot of pedestrian traffic, she said.
"This will have a devastating impact on Edgemont if upheld," said Bob Bernstein, a 21-year Edgemont resident. "You shouldn't be able to violate the zoning laws by mistake."
Bernstein said that the anger and frustration of the Edgemont residents is palpable.
"It will be right next to the Nature Center, so there will be impacts," said Council member Kevin Morgan, the town's liaison to the Greenburgh Nature Center. "We actually can't discuss it because we're looking at what our options are. We have to see if there is a possibility of appealing the ruling."
Speaking to why he did not correct the error on the zoning maps when it was discovered several years ago, Feiner said he was not involved in the details of the zoning board's work when the mistake was made and was asked to not comment publicly about the ruling. In a press release issued Thursday, he stated that the ruling "has concluded that the property is in the multi-family district and can be improved with multi-family dwellings," Feiner wrote.
"My gut feeling is that it will probably be appealed," he said.
White said that the Greenburgh Nature Center said it "would certainly support an appeal."
According to Bernstein, the community already has 900 multi-family housing units.
Edgemont Schools Superintendent Nancy Taddiken and school board President Gerry Stoughton could not be reached for comment as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday.