Friday, February 07, 2014
The blunt title says it all: "Map of Hasidic Jewish land owners Surrounding Kiryas Joel."
It's dated Jan. 14, and it was drawn by the same engineering firm that mapped the 507-acre annexation request delivered to Monroe Town Hall a few weeks earlier. It appears to represent the broader territorial ambitions of Kiryas Joel's leaders and landholders.
The map, provided to the Times Herald-Record with no information about who commissioned it or why, shows neighborhoods outside Kiryas Joel that are largely occupied by Hasidic families, and large, undeveloped tracts with Hasidic owners, stretching from the former Lake Anne Country Club in Blooming Grove to Larkin Drive in Monroe. Most of the vacant land was scooped up years ago, presumably to await the next expansion push.
The entire inventory of Hasidic-owned tax parcels take up a total area of 6.25 square miles, including the 1.1 square miles of Kiryas Joel at its core, according to the map made by the Monroe office of AFR Engineering and Land Surveying.
Kiryas Joel leaders have long weighed various strategies for commandeering more territory, whether through annexation or by forming another village or town. Neighboring communities, meanwhile, have taken preemptive steps to protect their zoning by forming the villages of Woodbury and South Blooming Grove in 2006.
For now, the petition to move 507 acres of Monroe into Kiryas Joel is the only proposed border shift under consideration. No such requests have been made in Woodbury or Blooming Grove, although Woodbury Mayor Michael Queenan said he expects to see one soon.
"We're anticipating some kind of annexation attempt in the near future," he said. "We feel it's going to be coming fairly quickly."
AFR's map indicates that Hasidic-owned properties outside Kiryas Joel total 900 acres in Monroe, 1,100 acres in Woodbury and 1,300 acres in Blooming Grove.
Two-thirds of the Blooming Grove land consists of the former Lake Anne Country Club, an 851-acre property that Hasidic investors bought for $15 million in 2006. The ownership group, whose development plans have never materialized, filed for bankruptcy in November to stave off foreclosure. In court papers, the owners say they've clashed with South Blooming Grove officials "over the scope and density of the proposed development," but are now formulating "a more workable development plan" to win village approval.
Mayor Robert Jeroloman said in response Thursday that the owners have never submitted a formal subdivision plan and have given no indication what they are considering now.
"The hangup is that they keep filing litigation after litigation, trying to change the zoning for this property," he said.
Two lawsuits to undo Woodbury's zoning are pending in state Supreme Court. One was filed in 2011 by Kiryas Joel and affiliated plaintiffs, who demanded that multi-family housing be permitted in an area where Hasidic Jews have bought homes and vacant land.
A similar suit was brought a year earlier by a group called United Fairness. A judge initially dismissed that case, but an appeals court panel reinstated it last month and allowed developer Ziggy Brach to substitute himself as the plaintiff.
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