Monday, January 20, 2014

Orange Bureau Confidential: Monroe neighbor slams town on KJ annexation bid 

For years, Natalie Strassner has been pressing Town of Monroe officials and various government agencies in vain to crack down on a Hasidic school she says has been operating without permission or oversight in a 3,800-square-foot house at the end of her residential cul-de-sac.

Now, Strassner, whose frustration with the town's inaction helped inspire her to run for Town Board last year, is facing the potential for a much greater presence of nearby Kiryas Joel in her neighborhood: an annexation request that would move the village's border to her backyard and place the makeshift school inside KJ. The 507 acres included in the petition are mostly on the west side of Kiryas Joel, and they include a 62-acre, undeveloped tract that runs behind Strassner's house and a few others on Cliff Court.

Owned since 2003 by Chaim Landau of Brooklyn, the wooded property is zoned for homes with lot sizes of at least 3 acres in Monroe but likely would be rezoned for denser housing if made part of Kiryas Joel. Also included in the request is a 3.7-acre property owned by Isidor Landau at the end of Cliff Court — the site of the school Strassner says she has fought for eight years. Asked recently about the annexation petition, Strassner repeated her exasperation with town officials for their failure to "enforce zoning and property codes" at 21 Cliff Court, and voiced trepidation about the impact annexation would have on the area.

"This will result in five-story condos surrounding us, therefore greatly de-valuing our homes," she wrote in an email. Property owners filed the annexation petition Dec. 27. The first likely struggle will concern Kiryas Joel's request to lead a mandated review to weigh the potential environmental effects of the border change. Some Monroe residents have begun pressing for the Town Board to assert itself as lead agency.


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