The parting of Monroe

Orange County legislators set dates for public hearings on the proposal to create a Town of North Monroe

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  • This is the map originally submitted last September to the Orange County Legislature with the petition requesting the creation of a new municipality from within the Town of Monroe. It included the Village of Kiryas Joel and 381.9 acres in the unincorporated section of the Town of Monroe north of Route 17. According to Kiryas Joel Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin, the boundaries are still being negotiated.

By Bob Quinn

— A committee of the Orange County Legislature approved measures this week that would allow the county’s Planning Department to start a preliminary environmental assessment on the impact of splitting the Town of Monroe into two distinct municipalities.

In addition, the members of the Rules Committee also scheduled a public hearing on the proposal for Wednesday, July 19, at Bais Rachel Paradise Hall in Kiryas Joel and for Thursday, July 20, at Central Valley Elementary School. Both sessions will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The legislators are acting on a request made last September by Monroe town residents living north of Route 17 to create a separate town that would include the Village of Kiryas Joel.

The Legislature would not create the new town.

Rather, the lawmakers must decide whether to allow a referendum on the matter so that the residents of Monroe, including those living in the Villages of Harriman, Kiryas Joel and Monroe, may decide.

BackgroundFor several months now, L. Stephen Brescia, chairman of the Orange County Legislature, has held meetings with County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus, Legislators Michael Amo, Katie Bonelli and Myrna K. Kemnitz, Kiryas Joel Mayor Abraham Wieder, KJ Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin and members of United Monroe to negotiate the issue. No one from the Town of Monroe nor the Monroe-Woodbury School District has participated.

The outcome of those negotiations would be wide-ranging and would affect many things now in play regarding Kiryas Joel.

Village leaders are searching for ways to accommodate its growing population within its cultural and religious ways of life. The initial steps to accomplish this were annexation bids, one for 164 acres and another for 507 acres. The county and a consortium of neighboring municipalities and non-profits are appealing a judge’s ruling that allowed the 164-acre annexation.

The larger one remains in court.

Meanwhile, some members of the Hasidic community are not waiting for annexation. They are seeking single-family homes in Monroe, Blooming Grove, Woodbury and elsewhere.

Question remains:

If voters approve the formation of the Town of North Monroe, would the lawsuits and appeals be dropped?

Would allowing the creation of a new municipality be viewed as a way to circumvent the rules and regulations governing annexation?

What would this affect the Monroe-Woodbury School District, in terms of student population, revenues and expenses?

When to hold the referendumAt Wednesday’s meeting of the Rules Committee, Legislative Counsel Antoinette Reed updated the lawmakers on several issues.

The first dealt with the date for a referendum. As things stand now, the referendum needs to be on the Monroe Town ballot that includes the election of town officials. The town supervisor and two members of the town board are up for election this November.

The Legislature must act by Sept. 21 in order to have a referendum on this year’s ballot.

Reed reported that the county would need to petition the state Legislature to allow for a special election. She also said a special election, one that would include only Monroe voters, would cost the county more than $62,000.

‘Unlisted action'The lawmakers held off endorsing one part of the Town of North Monroe. In their request to the Legislature, the petitioners indicated there was no need to State Environmental Quality Review because the creation of the new municipality would be “an Unlisted action.”

According to the State Department of Environmental Conservation: “Unlisted actions are the largest category of actions subject to review under SEQR. As may be implied from their name, no list has been made of them, in part because it is impossible to anticipate in advance every potential discretionary decision of government. Unlisted actions may range from very minor zoning variances to complex construction activities falling just below the thresholds for Type I actions, or from the granting of minor permits to the adoption of major regulations.”

Reed, in her remarks, disagrees with the petitioner’s assessment.

But the lawmakers did give County Planner David Church and his staff the go-ahead to put together a preliminary assessment, using information already in hand from the department’s work regarding the Monroe-Kiryas Joel annexation bids.

He is expected to report back to the committee by its June 21 meeting.

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