New village rules squeeze out Seven Springs proposal

Monroe. The new law increases the population threshold of a new territory from 500 to 1,500.

Monroe /
| 27 Dec 2023 | 11:01

Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed into law legislation aimed at making it harder for groups to establish villages within town municipalities. The law, S.7538, was drafted by State Senator James Skoufis (D-42).

Prior to the law’s passage, a territory of 500 or more inhabitants could become a village as long as the territory was not already part of a city or village. The proposed area for Seven Springs had just under 600 inhabitants, making it now ineligible for incorporation, as currently written.

According to the former state law, a new village “must contain no more than five square miles at the time of incorporation, although it may be larger in land area if its boundaries are made coterminous with those of a school, fire, improvement or other district, or the entire boundaries of a town.” The process had to be initiated by a petition signed by either 20% of qualified voters within the territory, or by the owners of more than 50% of the “assessed value of real property” in the territory. The petition would then be submitted to the supervisor of the town “in which all or the greatest part of the proposed village would lie.” Then a public hearing would be held, possibly followed by a referendum and approval by the court.

Skoufis’s bill upped the population to 2,000 (which will be reduced to 1,500 in the new year after an amendment request by Hochul), eliminated the assessed value/landowner basis for petitioning for village incorporation, and requires that a study be conducted on “the fiscal, service, and taxation impacts on the residents of the proposed village and the residents of the surrounding town” before the village incorporation order can move forward.

In September of this year, Monroe Town Supervisor Tony Cardone issued a statement announcing the rejection of a petition to establish the “village of Seven Springs” within the town. He stated at the time that the petition went against the requirements of New York State Village Law, claiming that the petition lacked a sufficient description of the proposed village’s borders. Cardone said at the time that the application instead relied mostly on tax lot lines and certain tax lot numbers that reportedly did not exist in the town of Monroe, “preventing the town from determining the extent and location of the proposed village.” He had previously rejected the petition in 2019. That time, he said petitioners failed to meet the 20% threshold. (Under state law petitioners can file a new petition for a village immediately upon being rejected.)

According to Skoufis, the Seven Springs petitioners had been vying for a new village since 2018, after a land annexation deal took place between the town of Monroe and the existing village of Kiryas Joel the year prior.

“The Seven Springs fiasco, which would have proven an impossible lift for local taxpayers all so a couple of wealthy developers could make a buck, has come to an end,” said Senator Skoufis after Hochul’s passage of his bill. “New villages require key services, such as sanitation, highway maintenance, and public safety. The suggestion that as few as 60 to 70 homes could sustain a robust municipal infrastructure was laughable, but would have done real and lasting harm to area taxpayers. While the governor and I may not always see eye to eye, I am thankful she recognized the importance of this legislation.”

Hochul also signed legislation by State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-35) establishing a “village incorporation commission,” which would essentially take the decision out of the town supervisor’s hands and place it in the hands of this third-party commission. So, for example, instead of refiling their petition with the Monroe supervisor, Seven Springs petitioners would have to send it to the Village Incorporation Commission. Under that law, the aforementioned impact study would also be overseen by the commission.