Friday, July 25, 2014

Sept. 30 vote set: Bloomingburg looks to dissolve 

This eastern Sullivan County village of some 400 residents took its first official step toward dissolving itself Thursday night when its two trustees and mayor voted to set a village-wide vote on dissolution. The referendum is set for Sept. 30

If successful, the dissolution effectively would place the village under the jurisdiction of the Town of Mamakating (population 12,000). It also would free many of its residents from their fear they would be overwhelmed by a 396-home Hasidic village and its scores of voters.

Mayor Frank Gerardi and Trustees James Johnson and Katherine Roemer were among more than 80 residents — more than 20 percent of the voters — who signed the petition required to force the vote. The move was spearheaded by the Rural Community Coalition, which, like the leaders of Bloomingburg and Mamakating, oppose Shalom Lamm's development. The coalition and those leaders say Bloomingburg is too small to handle all of the problems associated with its growth.

Still, concern that newly registered voters would influence the referendum prompted resident John Kahrs Thursday night to ask who would be overseeing the referendum.

"The Board of Elections," Bloomingburg Attorney Steve Mogel told the crowd of 60 in Village Hall.

It was that same concern that led to successful challenges of more than 100 new voters in the March village elections that gave Gerardi and the trustees their overwhelming victory in a contest characterized by accusations of voter fraud.

In fact, Mogel said he had written a letter to Sullivan County District Attorney Jim Farrell asking him to officially pursue charges of that fraud.

Residents also urged the village to enforce a stop work order at one building owned by Lamm where Gerardi and other residents say work has occurred and people have been seen coming and going. Bloomingburg currently is without a code enforcement officer.

"Legal action is highly likely," Mogel said.

Gerardi, however, did not take questions or public comment about the dissolution Thursday night, saying information would be presented on the process by the village's consultant, the Leberge Group of Albany, at an Aug. 5 meeting.


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