Rockland County, NY – If you need advice on getting your building plans approved, you might want to talk to Lipa Schmeltzer.
Despite the fact that the Village of Airmont has been sued twice in Federal Court for religious discrimination, the Chassidic superstar faced no obstacles in getting plans for a synagogue in his home approved. Lipa’s secret? Playing by the rules.
From the start, Lipa made sure that both the planning board and his neighbors knew that he was committed to being flexible and cooperative. When the planning board decided that a proposed dome violated zoning regulations, plans for the dome were scrapped. When a neighbor voiced concern that headlights from cars leaving the parking lot might shine into his house late at night, Lipa volunteered to plant trees on his neighbor’s lawn to block the offending headlights. The Shul, Beis Medrash D’Airmont is open only on Shabbos.
In an exclusive interview with VIN News, Lipa stressed how grateful he was for the opportunity to make a Kiddush Hashem saying, “Everything is doable if you just do it right. The town said yes because they saw we were cooperative. We listened to everything they wanted us to do and we did it.”
Lipa’s attorney, Ryan Karben, explained that getting approval was a relatively smooth, if time consuming process, saying, “We found the village to constructive and cooperative. The spirit of cooperation we manifested from the beginning prevented this from escalating into something divisive. The first rule is to be a good neighbor and then hopefully, people will be a good neighbor to you as well.”
Obviously that that approach worked well. Daniel Kraushaar, Village Attorney for the Village of Airmont confirmed that Lipa received site plan approval last night and has been given the green light to go ahead with his plans.
“This was a textbook case of an applicant and board working together,” said Kraushaar. “The applicant was extremely accommodating. It would be nice if all applications were handled in the same fashion and that both the applicant and the board could work as well as they did last night.”