The Clarkstown Town Board didn’t vote on a local law that would grant a special permit use in the Laboratory/Office (L/O) Zone to a company interested in buying the Cambridge University Press property on Brookhill Drive in West Nyack.
The special permit would allow for unrestricted shipping and receiving from the property, but restrict traffic to major, secondary and collector roads as opposed to local roads. It would close Brookhill Drive to all traffic.
The petition for the special permit was filed by RM MAG West Nyack, LLC, and property owner, Cambridge University Press, which has owned the property since 2003, agreed to the petition. The current zoning code restricts shipping and receiving of goods between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The vote didn’t occur after multiple nearby residents spoke out against the plan, many also mentioning neighbors of theirs against the plan couldn’t make it because the meeting was held at noon on Thursday. The last town board meeting of the year has been held at noon for the last 20 years or so, according to Town Attorney Amy Mele.
“We are family people and being a parent is a 24-hour job,” said Antoinette Butler, who lives by the Cambridge Press building. “We have been paying our taxes while living there and we raise our children and go to work, and we expect to be able to come home to have a peaceful night sleep. That will change if this zoning law is changed. There’s no doubt.”
Town Supervisor Alex Gromack said he didn’t know when the issue would next come up at a board meeting, and said the next step should be to try and get the building owner and local residents to meet so they can discuss the plans and potential issues together.
Other residents complained that they got a note saying the meeting on Thursday was actually at 8 p.m. originally, and then found out the meeting was at noon. Mele said there was a typographical error in the original notes sent out. One resident said he has argued that Brookhill should be closed down to traffic for decades, but he’d rather the road stay open than for the property to have the capability of 24-hour shipping and receiving. Butler didn’t agree with the assessment that residents wouldn’t be able to hear trucks at the property overnight.
“We do hear loading and unloading during the day as it is from where we are, so I can’t imagine how they can say we won’t hear it during the nighttime when they come and go,” she said. “They won’t be there to monitor it, in fairness, and I know they’re trying to say the trucks won’t go on that road that is parallel to Bullrun (Brookhill). Again, these truck drivers are more than likely going to be from out of state, they’re not going to be familiar. If they see that as the only way to get from one end to the other without having to turn their huge vehicles around, they’re going to do it at 3 a.m., whenever. But we do hear the trucks backing up, we hear them loading and we do hear them sometimes just sitting in the trucks, leaving the engine running for a very long period of time.”
The planning board recently looked at the plans for the property, according to Town Planner Joe Simoes.
“They recommended in favor, stating that the amendment is consistent with the aims and principals embodied in chapter 290, which state as a rule to promote and protect the public health, safety and public general welfare,” he said.
Simos said the board also noted that the town’s comprehensive plan calls for development, zoning and building regulations that reduce or restrict, borders, sounds, commercial traffic, pollution or other negative environmental impacts, as well as create zones which extend developmental flexibility while maintaining and enhancing the existing character of the town’s neighborhood.
“The zone change does this by allowing new commercial opportunities at the warehouse and warehouse sites, and at the same time protects surrounding areas by restricting traffic to higher capacity roads,” Simoes said.
Butler asked the board members to vote against the permit not only for what it would mean for residents now, but for what it would mean for them longterm.
“Yes, businesses are going to come in, it’s a very attractive piece of property that could make a lot of money, but we are the residents there,” she said. “These new tenants might not be there in 10 years, it could sell again. Once the zoning law is changed, it’s changed. We are the residents, we pay our taxes, we are there and we’ll always be there.”