Wednesday, December 31, 2014
A group of Monroe homeowners has petitioned to annex 336 acres of northeastern Monroe into neighboring Blooming Grove, opening a competition with Kiryas Joel and its allies for the control and future development of vacant land tracts just outside the Hasidic community.
Petitions signed by 17 residents of the sparsely populated area proposed for annexation were submitted Tuesday to the towns of Monroe and Blooming Grove and the Village of South Blooming Grove, the three municipalities whose governing boards ultimately must vote on the request. The Orange County Board of Elections certified shortly before then that 14 signers were registered voters, satisfying a requirement under state law that at least 12 voters -- or 20 percent of the 57 registered voters living in the annexation area -- sign the petition for it to be valid.
The land that would be shifted into Blooming Grove overlaps with territory in an annexation petition filed almost exactly a year ago by a group of Hasidic property owners, who wanted their land to become part of Kiryas Joel. About 235 of the 507 acres in the Kiryas Joel petition are listed in the new request, creating two very different zoning prospects for those parcels. Blooming Grove would likely preserve the area's semi-rural feel and large-lot zoning, while Kiryas Joel would likely usher in apartments to accommodate the community's rapid growth and more urban lifestyle.
John Allegro, a United Monroe member who lives in the annexation area and led the petition drive, said Tuesday that he and his neighbors "want to live in a municipality that has unity of purpose between our properties and the zoning in the general area." He also argued that they would benefit from being covered by Town of Blooming Grove police and South Blooming Grove firefighters, whose firehouse is much closer to the neighborhood than the Monroe Fire Department's main station. The annexation area and other unincorporated parts of Monroe rely on state police coverage because the Town of Monroe has no police department.
"I'm two houses down from the Town of Blooming Grove, and I see the Blooming Grove P.D. many more times than I see state troopers," Allegro said.
The new petition enters an already muddled battle over Kiryas Joel's quest to expand.
The 507-acre annexation petition fell into limbo this year because the state Department of Environmental Conservation refused to settle a conflict between the Town of Monroe and Kiryas Joel over which municipality would conduct an environmental review for the proposal. So property owners filed a second petition encompassing 164 of the 507 acres, Kiryas Joel declared itself lead agency, and the village's consultants have begun what they say will be an analysis of the potential impact of both requests. The first petition was never withdrawn and technically remains active, although it never advanced beyond the lead-agency dispute.
None of the 52 parcels in the Blooming Grove petition was included in the 164-acre proposal, which would expand Kiryas Joel's borders to the edge of Woodbury on two sides of the village.
In addition to the annexation requests, Kiryas Joel has floated the idea of forming a second village outside its border that would encompass 1,140 acres.
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