February 22, 2013

When New Yorkers are second-class citizens

What a difference a few feet make. For New Canaan residents, the application by Grace Church to construct a sanctuary for 900 worshippers was a multiyear affair involving municipal agencies, overseen by the New Canaan planning commission.

For Pound Ridge residents whose property is less than 100 feet from the church property, there was no review, no comment period, no legal standing.

“In 2007, New Yorkers were not notified of Grace’s application, even though our property is less than 100 feet from the Grace property; even though the planning and zoning board’s own regulations require that every household within 100 feet is to be notified; and even though they did notify the New Canaan residents,” said Karen Cooper, a neighbor of the church, at the Jan. 29 meeting in New Canaan.

In 2007 and 2008, New Canaan’s planning and zoning board approved a special permit and amendment allowing a 900-seat sanctuary on that site. After the approval, residents from New Canaan and neighboring New York communities appealed the planning and zoning board’s decisions in superior court. The Connecticut superior court dismissed the appeals and found the planning and zoning approvals in 2007 and 2008 met regulation requirements. The appellate court denied further requests from plaintiffs. Since the application is outside of our state’s jurisdiction, no New York court ever had the opportunity to weigh in on the matter.

If the application is approved, Ms. Cooper and her husband, along with other Pound Ridge and Lewisboro residents, will be impacted by months of construction traffic, if not longer; they will be forced to navigate an influx of church traffic on weekends and during church events; and they will be the unwelcoming recipients of traffic, noise and other potential environmental impacts they could never even protest.

In 2007, Grace Property Holdings appeared before the New Canaan planning commission and presented its proposal for a building called the River at the former Windsome Farms property on Lukes Wood Road and Smith Ridge on the border of Pound Ridge and Lewisboro.

Whether or not the building, designed by architecture firm Sanaa of Tokyo, is “in harmony” with the landscape as developers suggest, is not the issue. The issue is why do Pound Ridge neighbors not have the same voice as those in New Canaan, who weighed in on shrubs, lights, runoff, traffic and a panoply of other matters.

Hearings were closed last week. New Canaan planning and zoning chairman Laszlo Papp said that he expected a decision on the application within 65 days.

Right now, the most Pound Ridge residents can hope to do is limit construction traffic by rerouting it off local Pound Ridge streets or limit heavy vehicles, which, officials say, may unduly burden town roads. But such measures need enforcing by local police, which requires time and money. And though police may slow the process down, they will have little impact on the final result.

“Right now we New Yorkers feel a little like we’re going to be sort of collateral damage,” said Ms. Cooper.

When Connecticut and Pound Ridge teamed together to fight increased air traffic over the skies, residents rightly shared the fight to limit noise and environmental impacts. With Grace Church, there is no such harmony, and Pound Ridgers are left holding few options at their disposal.



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Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

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Bedford Village

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  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

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  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

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Mount Kisco

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Cross River

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  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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