A haredi yeshiva opens a branch upstate. It acquires land in an existing town and proposes building married student housing on it. The town's planning commission approves apartment buildings with two and four bedroom apartments. The yeshiva agrees, but then advertises in Hamodia claiming six bedroom apartments and town homes. The town is outraged. The yeshiva's attorney says nothing is stopping the yeshiva from combining apartments. Of course there is something – town ordinances and building codes. (Worse yet, it may be the yeshiva is actually selling the apartments.)
The yeshiva's name? Chofetz Chaim. I wonder what the yeshiva's namesake, the mavin of lashon hara law, would say about this bait-and-switch scam?
Read more, after the jump:
Ramapo yeshiva housing plan proposes more apartments
By JAMES WALSH
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: March 16, 2007)
RAMAPO - Builders of a housing development connected to a yeshiva have sought tenants for apartments larger than those permitted by the town.
Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim on Grandview Avenue, the first adult student housing complex to be built in the town, is permitted by Ramapo's zoning code to have apartments with no more than four bedrooms, yet has advertised apartments as large as six bedrooms.
Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim solicited tenants for four-, five- and six-bedroom townhouses as well as three-room apartments in August in Hamodia, a weekly Jewish Orthodox newspaper.
Throughout an application process beginning four years ago for zoning and Planning Board approvals, as well as for a building permit, Mosdos Chofetz Chaim Inc. sought to build two- and four-bedroom townhouses.
"There have been no approvals for anything more than four-bedroom units," Town Attorney Michael Klein said yesterday. "And there won't be a certificate of occupancy issued if the construction is found not to be in compliance with the approved plan."
Klein said the Building Department was regularly inspecting the construction, which is to be finished this year.
It seemed to Dennis Lynch, a South Nyack attorney representing Mosdos Chofetz Chaim, that larger apartments were possible.
"There is clearly no problem in combining units," Lynch said. "If people want a larger apartment, they can combine smaller ones. The market will dictate what the need is."
Lynch said the only mandate was to ensure that the square footage of the buildings was unchanged.
Klein, though, was adamant that only two- and four-bedroom apartments would be permitted, which the Planning Board approved in 2005.
He said Building Department inspections have found no evidence of larger apartments.
"And if they're illegally converted and we find out, there will be prosecutions," Klein said.
As multifamily buildings, they will be subject to annual fire safety inspections.
While inspections for other matters are not made under the guise of fire safety, Klein said, the inspectors would report unrelated violations as well.
The project, which is to include 28 four-bedroom units and 32 two-bedrooms, is being financed with a $12.8 million loan by Citizens Bank.
It's being built on 4.7 acres bordering a public school in a single-family neighborhood. The builders have predicted that 230 people would live there.
Some members of the Jewish Orthodox community have seen it as meeting a critical housing need, while providing a place where students could pursue religious studies close to their families.
Other residents, as well as officials of some Ramapo villages, predicted an environmental fallout and saw adult student housing zones as an accommodation to multifamily housing in single-family neighborhoods.
"People buy empty land, build multifamily housing and advertise for people to live in the townhouses," said Robert Rhodes, president of Preserve Ramapo. "The question is are these religious institutions or are they real estate companies?"
In its application to the town, Mosdos Chofetz Chaim Inc. said in part that the plan "is not a false attempt or pretense to bypass any general land use limitations, but a genuine need for our religious Yeshiva community."