Senator James Skoufis (D-Hudson Valley) has introduced a bill to update village incorporation law in New York State.
Village incorporation law has been virtually unchanged in 56 years and, according to Skoufis, undoubtedly requires significant modernization.
"Village incorporation proposals such as Seven Springs in the Town of Monroe," Skoufis said, "have been weaponized as political tools for major developers."
Skoufis said his proposal, which comes in response to those circumstances, would do three things:
Raises the threshold of signature requirements to file a petition from 500 to 2,500.
Strikes a provision enabling the owners of at least 50 percent of the property value to petition for the new village. Under this law, at least 20 percent of the residents qualified to vote in the town must sign the petition for it to move forward.
Gives the State Comptroller’s office the authority to make either a favorable or unfavorable determination on the fiscal impacts of the village. If the Comptroller deems the village to be fiscally unfavorable, the village petition will not move forward. If the Comptroller deems the village fiscally favorable, the village petition will move to a full vote for everyone in the affected town.
Jess Gulotta, the Director of Communications for the senator, said the bill would affect Seven Springs and any other village petitions that haven't yet gotten to the referendum stage.
“I'll never stop trying to find new solutions to our district's most pressing issues," Skoufis said. "By raising the petition signature requirement and giving the State Comptroller’s office the ability to examine the fiscal impacts of a village incorporation, we are ensuring more fairness and independence in a process that has long-needed reformation. Voters deserve to make an informed decision that best reflects the future of their community, and I'm determined to help give them that voice.”
In the Assembly
Skoufis remains opposed to the proposal for the Village of Seven Springs and is committed to ensuring that the concerns of the people in the Town of Monroe are heard and respected. The bill is currently in the Local Government Committee and is being sponsored in the Assembly by Assembly member Fred Theile, Chair of the Local Government Committee.
Earlier this month, state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Sciortino overturned Monroe Town Supervisor Tony Cardone's rejection of the petition by a group of Hasidic residents and lawn owners to create a new village.
According an article in the Times Herald-Record, the proposed village would take in nearly all of the unincorporated land remaining in northern Monroe on both sides of Route 17. It would stretch from the Village of South Blooming Grove in the west to Harriman Commons Shopping Center in the east, and would include the Monroe section of Harriman Commons. The territory encompasses 1.9 square miles - an area larger than neighboring Kiryas Joel - but includes undeveloped tracts and had only about 600 inhabitants and 300 voters.
What's next? Either an appeal by the Town of Monroe or the scheduling of a referendum.