United Monroe: The 'overall public interest' test for proposed villages is long overdue


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The 2019 State legislative session ends June 19. As of the writing of this letter, a bill proposing changes to the village incorporation process is yet to move closer to passage. It is listed as “on floor calendar” in the Senate and remains “in committee” in the Assembly.

United Monroe appreciates the efforts of Senator Skoufis and Assemblyman Thiele to reform New York’s outdated Village Law. We believe that requiring the "overall public interest" test for proposed villages is long overdue. It would reduce some of the abuses to the law which allow new villages to be incorporated for the wrong reasons, including landowners cashing in on development deals.

We also believe that the bill can be strengthened by adding changes that would close even more loopholes, such as:

1. Increase the minimum number of residents required to form a village from 500.

2. Require that residents in a new village be reasonably spread throughout its proposed boundaries.

3. Mandate a full SEQRA review for proposed new villages.

4. Place the determination of “overall public interest” in the hands of a majority vote of the full town board, as is the case with municipal annexations.

We believe that a bill including these changes would be appealing to residents with similar concerns throughout the state in addition to those of us in Monroe, Chester and Blooming Grove.

We are also concerned that a provision in the bill requiring that a new village be “consistent with” and “would not substantially impair” the comprehensive plan of the town in which it is located could leave it vulnerable to a veto by the governor. This is because the State Constitution grants “home rule” to local governments, allowing them to develop their own zoning and planning laws.

The current bill appears to conflict with the home rule rights of municipalities.

United Monroe has been following the developments of Chester's preservation transfer tax bill, which appears ready to pass the Senate and Assembly. That bill addresses potential suburban sprawl in Chester and is consistent with similar laws in New York. In this case, lawmakers and citizens worked together to make something great happen in a very short time.

We believe that the same can be accomplished with a bill that would discourage most of the abuses that we see today when new villages are proposed for dubious reasons.

United Monroe asks residents of Southern Orange County to contact their state lawmakers and urge them to collaborate on a comprehensive bill to reform Village Law.

The United Monroe Executive Committee




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