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Letter: Disappointed With ARB Decision

We, the below-signed East Hills residents want to register our deep disappointment with recent actions by the Architectural Review Board (ARB) regarding a house in Norgate that has been in the news.

Despite our requests to be heard and our appeals for them to properly enforce the villages laws for tree protection and home design, the ARB brushed aside our efforts and summarily dismissed our arguments.

The ARB’s final vote on April 2 was the culmination of months of confusing, seemingly improper, and otherwise unhelpful official conduct by the board.

Originally, with no notice to the public, the ARB apparently approved permits in January to demolish a solid old home in Norgate and replace it with a Hampton’s style home that is out of character with our area. One extraordinary tree was also permitted to be cut down.

After neighbors saw temporary fencing going up, we learned that five of the beautiful trees were proposed for destruction. Luckily for us, work was delayed by a temporary stop work order and we began to act.

On Feb. 6, the ARB was asked for a rehearing of the project. On Feb. 27, several residents appeared before the village board and a request for a complete moratorium on building and tree removals was presented. On March 5, a petition signed by nine neighbors was submitted to the ARB asking for a real public hearing on the project.

Then we presented expert opinion to the ARB before it voted on April 2. A respected local architect provided a notarized letter detailing numerous “negative impacts” on the neighborhood the new house would create, in violation of the village architectural code.

The board also heard a detailed argument for a new hearing based on, among other things, the absence of any public notice or participation before the original vote.

Several residents made heartfelt appeals to preserve all the trees on the property, calling them “wonderful” and “our treasures” which are “being lost” at an unacceptable rate.

But the ARB members refused to budge. They voted hastily and unanimously two separate times to reject the residents’ concerns.

And they confusingly chose to vote only minutes after having first voted to defer decisions on both questions – the rehearing and the tree removals — prompting some neighbors to have left the meeting and miss the vote.

We applaud the trustees and mayor for agreeing to hold public hearings on April 30 and thereafter to entertain residents’ complaints about the laws that failed to protect enough of our trees and neighborhood character.

We wish they had heeded our appeal for a moratorium in time to protect this property, and we hope they do impose one now.

We also hope the village trustees will work to assure better respect for neighbors’ and experts’ opinions by village boards like the ARB.

Finally we want to urge our East Hills neighbors to promptly add their own experiences and wishes to the public record for the trustees to act upon.

Richard Brummel, Sheila Brummel, Hilda Yohalem, Ramona Levy, and Joel Sheinbaum