Mohegan Lake Legal Defense Fund

History of this site

This site was originally set up to fight 3 of 5 zoning variances proposed by the FBC development at Sagamore Trail and Mohegan Ave that eliminates two single family homes while nearly quadrupling the parking and occupancy loads of the old Lakeland Jewish Center. That effort failed and the application is currently before the Planning Board.

While Save Mohegan Lake will continue to update you on that issue, we are moving on to all issues affecting the lake, such as Mohegan Lake Improvement District (MLID) meetings, agenda and budget. This site is not an official mouthpiece for MLID, but some updates will be provided on this site; the official site is located here.

We do it all here, so long as it's Mohegan Lake related. Feel free to submit comments, content, garage sale notices, police blotters, PSA's, essays on the virtues of our 105 acre ice rink, rants, raves, etc... We love it all.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Urgent Call To Action

As you know, the public hearing for Faith Bible Church's proposal to create a huge building capable of holding 730 people while not increasing parking will be before the Yorktown Planning Board at 7pm on Monday, May 6th at Town Hall.

If you are submitting written comments to the Planning Board, I am recommending you make one specific point.  FBC's use of the facility is not in keeping with the historic character of the small residential community that surrounds the site.  That's one thing I can't credibly testify to.   Thankfully  I have so many awesome neighbors who have lived here, right here in the Mohegan Highlands, Shrub Oak Lake Estates and all around Mohegan Lake.  Most of you have lived here for many years.  20, 30, 40 year residents.  I actually know a 75 year old resident.  Born and raised right here on Jones Hill.  But I digress.

Below is a template. If it is easier, you can email it to with a copy to [that's me].  USPS mail works too. 

April 25th, 2013

Yorktown Planning Board
Yorktown Community & Cultural Center
1974 Commerce Street, Room 222
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598

Re:  Faith Bible Church
       3500 Mohegan Avenue

Planning Board Members:

I live at ________ in Mohegan Lake.  I am writing you regarding the subject application to inform you that Faith Bible Church's use of the site is not consistent with the historic character of our small residential community.They do not use the site in accordance with the last Yorktown Planning Board approval.  The Lakeland Jewish Center never used the homes for church purposes and substantially conformed to the Planning Board approval.

[Tell the planning board members  what the historic character of the neighborhood was prior to FBC's recent transgressions.]

[Discuss any specific issues like the illegal conversion of the homes in 2005.  The fact they park 85+ cars weekly where 23 are permittedThe building they are proposing has two places of assembly capable of holding 730 people without increasing parkingThey are proposing parking in the front yards which is illegal and would never be allowed in Yorktown Heights.  The building department and code enforcement officer fail to do their job and issue a violation after years and years of flouting the law.  The list goes on and on.]

[Thank the planning board members for their voluntary service.]


[Your name(s)]

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spring Onions and Beavers in Mohegan Lake

If you live in Mohegan Lake then you know this is the time of year our yards are inundated with wild onions.  It helps to use a hand trowel to loosen hard soil to free up the bunches of scallion-y wild spring onions.  I cooked with some tonight.  They have a fresh herb and garlicky flavor.

In beaver news, I saw one swim past my house this weekend.  There was a spirited discussion at the Mohegan Highland's beach clean up about the beavers this weekend. There were persuasive arguments made to leave the beavers alone and let the northernmost section of Mohegan Avenue flood.  It's futile to fight nature--plus abandoning that section of the road will cut down on through traffic and speedy speedsters speeding through our quaint residential community.  I think I'm leaning towards a let it be policy.  Who knows, I may have water front property.  Beavers sure are industrious. 

It seems that the Mohegan Lake Improvement District is supporting a grating system and some cleaning.  More details to come at the next MLID in a couple weeks.  Stay tuned for details.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mohegan Lake Weekly Roundup: Yee-haw

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hemlock Hill Farm

One of my favorite things about Mohegan Lake is its proximity to Hemlock Hill farm; less than 10 minutes.  I try to by all my protein there, but fall far too short.  I received this coupon (image below, expires 5/16) and wanted to share.   

Here's a link to the farm's facebook page.  Like it!

The farm is run by a great family, father and daughter.  They do farming right.  I would note that I took second place in the judges choice an important chili competition featured in the Wall Street Journal using 5 pounds of Hemlock Hill ground lamb (see if you can spot my balding mug serving chili in the photo on that link) .

By the way, their chickens are tasty.  Roast it simple and turn that carcass into chicken stock.  Make that matzoh ball soup from scratch?  I did recently and don't regret it.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Earth Day Cleanup 4/20/13

Don't forget about it.  Up here in Yorktown we theme it the "Battle of Yorktown."  You can obtain orange bags and arrange pick up spots with the town.  It's a tangible way you can ameliorate Mohegan Lake.  Instant gratification.  I promise. 

You can see details on this link to the town's official website.

Robbery on Kimble Avenue This Morning

Some shocking news that explains the helicopters and police presence at the north side of Mohegan Lake today.  Here's a link to a Patch story.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Meeting Regarding Faith Bible Church 4/20/2013 at 2pm

Hello Mohegan Lake,

You are invited to a meeting regarding the FBC application currently before the Yorktown Planning Board.  We will be meeting at the Mohegan Highlands Property Owner's Association beach (after our clean up).   All Mohegan Lake Improvement District home owner associations and park districts are invited.  Email me if you need directions.  Refreshments will be provided.

There is a May 6th public hearing on the subject at Yorktown Town Hall.  We will be reviewing the plans and discussing actions we can take to preserve the quaint residential character of or neighborhood; since the subject site is one of the main gateways to our community, it affects us all.  

Hope to see you there,

The Brays

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Some people work very hard, but still they never get it right."

It is time to sum up where we are with Faith Bible Church. Simply put, the church leaders continue to behave selfishly. Their proposed construction would be detrimental to the wetlands of Mohegan Lake and every home in the small residential neighborhood that surrounds it. Their design is plainly illegal, for good reason. The site is simply too small for such a large development. And yet, nearly 5 years after plans were initially submitted, the scale of the proposed development is as large as ever. 
Instead of respecting the law, and the public interest that is served by the law, the church hires shameless professionals to make deceitful arguments in an endless search for special exceptions to the law. The public interest is clearly opposed by such an illogical design, but mislead public officials continue to entertain the possibility of granting these exceptions. While this may benefit the church and the hired professionals who exploit their selfishness, the rest of us are losing in the process
Much more to come on this shortly.  Thankfully, we have the full backing of both home owners associations that surround the site and will make a reasoned stand against the madness.  

Yorktown Smart Growth Dinner and Auction This Saturday, 4/13

Yorktown Smart Growth is a great organization that advocates for the responsible development of Yorktown.  If you can make it out to Traveler's Rest this Saturday, I highly recommend it.  I personally guarantee you'll have a good time and meet a lot of great Yorktowners.  Info below:

www.yorktownsmartgrowth.myevent .com

7-10 PM
Route 100, 1 mile south of the Croton Reservoir

Music by Jazzman Joe Picciano
Hors d’ Oeuvres and Wine

Presale $30 or at the door $40

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Honey, I Eliminated The Required Front Yards

Unfortunately for Faith Bible Church, their design team has made what we in the profession refer to as a "colossal fuck up."  It's a highly technical term, but I think you understand it's not a good thing.  In short, the zoning code prohibits parking, for anything other than residences, in required front yards; 30 of the 63 parking spaces they are proposing are not permitted as of right and this is just now--over 4 years after the application was filed--coming to light.  It effectively reduces the occupant load the parking can support from 252 to 132.  Keep in mind they are proposing an occupant load of 344 on the first floor and 378 on the 1st floor. 

B. In any residence district, no required off-street parking facility shall be developed within the required front yard to serve other than residential uses, nor shall be developed within five feet of a side or rear lot line. 

I had a bit of a back and forth with the building inspector and he helpfully pointed out that in residential zoning districts, like where Faith Bible is, corner lots are required to provide side yards equivalent to the minimum front yard requirement in the prevalent zone  (30 feet in this case).  This means the wetland lot actually has a front yard requirement(indicated by yellow highlighter on plans below) not shown on my the plans; even worse than I initially thought.

G. Corner lots. On a corner lot in any residence district, there shall be provided a side yard on the side street equal in depth to the required front yard on said side street.

Since I wrote the attached letter (below, with exhibits) to the planning board, it has also come to light that the applicant is required to maintain a 35 foot front yard, not 30 feet as previously thought.  It's right there in Appendix A, footnote (1) of the Residence Zone Standards Duh!

On streets with less than a 50-foot right-of-way [Sagamore is 40 feet wide], the front yard setback shall be measured from the center line of the existing roadway and 25 feet shall be added to the required front yard setback.


There is actually additional required front yard on the Mohegan Ave frontage of the Wetland parking lot.  The code prohibites all this parking in our little residential zone.  Their engineer and architect totally overlooked (willfully or not) this provision.  It's kind of a bid deal since granting a variance for so much parking in that required front yard buffer would ruin the residential character of the neighborhood and devalue all of our homes. 

If I had made the same mistake they did (overlooking the front yard prohibition on parking), I would lose my job.  Shame on me for missing it for such a long time. Zoning can be sexy and thrilling.  I think I just proved that. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Public Hearing Notice for Faith Bible Church Monday, 5/6/2013 @7:30pm

There is a community meeting at the Mohegan Highland's beach on 4/20/2013 at 2pm to organize our opposition to the major new development that Faith Bible Church is proposing.

Last night it was decided that the FBC public hearing will finally go forth.  It's imperative that we show up and make our opposition known in writing.  Should you live in the area and are familiar with the proposal, please feel free to write a letter to the Planning Board. You can email or snail mail it, or both.  We only pay taxes and not Al Capellini so the planning board will likely just ignore our protests, but we should make a stand on principle anyway.

Yorktown Community & Cultural Center
1974 Commerce Street, Room 222
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
If you email, it's good practice to copy the town clerk.

Suggested issues to raise:

  • A 730 person, 8,500sf church is not representative of the character of the neighborhood.  The Lakeland Jewish Center never operated in such a manner and respected the current approvals for the site, on record with the Yorktown Building Department and Tax Assessor. Faith Bible Church illegally converted two homes to increase the occupant and parking loads without approval of the Yorktown.
  • The Lakeland Jewish Center never occupied or used the two legal residences as anthing other than single family homes.
  • FBC's proposal does not provide enough parking to support the proposed occupant load.  They currently park as many cars on site, in fact more--per their engineer's study, than will be provided with the new building.  
  • Zoning code prohibits parking in required front yards in residential districts.  Faith Bible is proposing 30 of their 63 parking spaces in required front yards.  They have no variance to do so.
  • A zoning variance to allow parking denigrates the gateway to our residential community.  Instead of a 30' required front yard, the applicant illegally parks 86+ cars wherever they feel necessary resulting in a used car lot aesthetic.  
 Much more information to come shortly.  This is the beginning of the end.  

Mohegan Lake's Newest Resident

Please welcome into this world, Cora Grace Bray.  8 pounds, 12 ounces, born 4/8/2013 at 7:51pm.  Everyone is healthy and happy and excited to be Moheganites!

About 3 minutes old.

Our girls are always well haired, unlike their father. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Solid Beaver Evidence

Took a trip to the Holland Club this weekend.  Me and the girls took a tour of the site and made a few fun discoveries.  We found fresh, solid evidence of a beaver in the lake.  The town has been trapping them to help mitigate the outflow issues.  Did you know the beaver was adopted as the New York state animal in 1975?

Add caption

Stripping it clean.


A little vine on vine action.

Big rocks and steep slopes, that's the character of the neighborhood. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

There Is a God

As you may have heard, I sued the Yorktown Zoning Board of Appeals pro se (without an attorney).  I lost.  The article 78 petition I filed was thrown out on a technicality.  Even though I was solely challenging decisions made by the ZBA and served them properly, I was unaware of obscure case law that required me to serve the property owner--Faith Bible Church.  The case was not decided on its merits. The judge dismissed it based on that failure to serve and I couldn't challenge it because zoning variances have an extremely short statute of limitation of 30 days (in NY state).  Live and learn.

As luck would have it, I just discovered a zoning section the applicant (FBC) does not comply with.  The net result is that instead of 63 parking spaces, they can only provide 33.  What does this all mean?  At a minimum, I'll have the pleasure of making a reasoned argument against a ginormous zoning variance that will ruin the residential character of the neighborhood. I had some good times with the ZBA and look forward to at least a couple more:)

Holland Club Site Visit

There will be a site visit to review the condition of the remedial work prompted by the NYSDEC Notice of Violation, general discussion of the property and fellowship.  For those interested in attending, it will begin at 11am on Saturday, 4/6/2013 unitl 11:30ish.  Hope to see you there.  If you haven't been to the site, or haven't been recently, I highly recommend you take a look-see.  It's a great property. We've had an eagle and osprey sightings on the lake (they were both fishing).  There are at least 3 great blue heron and about 100 or so Merganser ducks chilling in the lake for another couple weeks.

Please note that the Town Board will be discussing the park proposal approved by the Recreation Commission on Tuesday night at the Town Board.  You should attend this meeting if you have an interest in the future of the Holland Club. 
They literally turned the Holland Club into a dump, without a permit.   That's the gist of the violation.  There's been some funny semantic games, contradictions and outright opacity from the board regarding this issue.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Faith Bible Church Planning Board Working Session 4/8/13

The subject application is on the Planning Board Agenda on Monday. 

In related news, I made amazing discovery today; it was was right under my nose for about 2.5 years.  I had underlined, doubled underlined, highlighted and made notations all around it.  I overlooked it, but it was there the whole time.  Zoning and code are exciting like that.  I did a fist pump and a little dance.  It is exactly one sentence of Yorktown zoning. 

It's not fair to link directly to it, but it's in there.  I will confirm my revelation with two zoning attorneys before I commit it to writing, but if I'm correct, the number of parking spaces they can provide as of right goes from 63, to 33.  Gasp.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Holland Club Notice of Violation

Yorktown received a violation for the half-assed demo job they did at the Holland Club.  Much more to follow.  In the meantime, you can follow along at home by liking Friends of the Holland Club on facebook, here.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Quick Draw

I've been blogging for almost 7 years now.  One thing I've learned is that it pays to be quick on the camera draw.  Two quick examples:

Here's a gentleman in a blue Chevy [?] full size pick up at about 5:25pm on 4/1/2013 (sadly not an April Fool's joke) dumping a sheet of plywood on the Shrub Oak Lake Estates beach.  That deserves a "boo, you suck."  I heard the sheet drop, saw him scurry to his truck and zoom off.  He didn't count on me a) being there and b) being so quick on the draw.  Do you recognize this truck? [Update 4/2/13: someone came by with a van and cleaned up the plywood.  Good on you.]

He's literally driving off in this pic, quickly.  That's the plywood he dumped, right center.
The second item, my friends, is an osprey I caught with my lens on Sunday morning .  It was huge, much bigger than the hawks I've seen around here.   Anyway, here's the video where it catches my eye. For reference, it mostly stays in the center or the frame.  You may need to replay it to see the whole flight; it ends landing on a branch where it eats a fish it had in its talons!  Apparently it's diet is almost exclusively fish. 


The next video is of the osprey eating its prey on the branch. Mohegan Lake is a pretty amazing place. Lots of fish in its waters, as we--and this osprey--know.

Below are some highly enlarged and zoomed in on photos.  I'm still excited about them though.  You can still see what a regal raptor the osprey is.