Rockland County Exec. ‘Drawing the Line’ on Irresponsible Development

Real Estate In-Depth | May 2017

Photo Caption: Rockland County Executive Ed Day gives a signed copy of his Executive Order to ROSA Volunteer Deborah Munitz.

RAMAPO—At a press conference staged near a controversial housing development at Patrick Farm here, Rockland County Executive Ed Day signed an Executive Order prohibiting county departments from issuing permits that do not comply with the General Municipal Law.

“When it comes to development, for far too long we see laws disregarded or broken—with no consequences,” County Executive Day said. “No more. Starting today there are going to be consequences. We are drawing the line.”

General Municipal Law requires towns and villages to comply with the findings of the County Planning Commissioner or file a reason why a decision has been made not to comply. Failure to do so will result in the county not issuing permits for such uses as water and sewer connections, well permits, rooming house permits, drainage permits, road opening permits, issuance of new addresses and others, county officials noted.

County Executive Day made the Executive Order announcement in Ramapo, adjacent to the 197-acre Patrick Farm property where developers want to build 479 units, much of it opponents charge over an aquifer. Community leaders also participated in the press conference, including Michael Miller of CUPON, Deborah Munitz of ROSA, Robert Rhodes of Preserve Ramapo and other residents as well as firefighters and county and town officials.

Certain circumstances trigger provisions under the New York State General Municipal law that force a local municipality—a town or a village—to send plans to the county planning department. This includes plans for a proposed zone change, a special permit, certain subdivisions, certain site plans and even changes to local laws. Reviews are also triggered when a proposed development is near an adjacent municipality or close to a county road, stream, wetland, park, etc., according to county officials.

If the county review requires modifications or there is a disapproval, a super majority of the Town Board, Planning Board, or Zoning Board is needed to override the General Municipal Law findings. That means that a town or village can still allow development that does not comply with the law.

However, Day stressed that the county will no longer go along with it unless the town or village states why it has reached a different conclusion.

“Sure, you can build a 479-home development over a crucial fresh water aquifer even though our Commissioner of Planning says ‘No,’” the County Executive said. “But guess what? You will not be able to get water or sewer hook ups for those homes. You will not be able to get addresses. You cannot open your road, you cannot get curb cuts for a driveway. Good luck with that.”

While the new Executive Order applies to all of Rockland County, County Executive Day noted, “But all of us know that the problem with irresponsible, reckless development is for the most part contained to one town—Ramapo and its villages. We are at a turning point for the Town of Ramapo. Let’s restore integrity to Ramapo. We want the county to be there for people of Ramapo who have been waiting years for a change.”

The order was developed at Day’s direction after a joint effort by many of county departments. County officials that joined him for the announcement, included: Deputy Commissioner of Health Catherine Johnson Southren, Commissioner of Planning Doug Schuetz, Director of the Office of Fire and Emergency Services Gordon Wren and County Attorney Tom Humbach, who was the author and architect of the order.

Local officials also attended the press conference, including Pomona Mayor Brett L. Yagel, Airmont Mayor Philip Gigante and Clarkstown Supervisor George Hoehmann, who is chairman of the Rockland County Sewer District No. 1.