Monday, January 09, 2017

Village to vote on dissolving; Concern over Hasidic development spurs initiative 

More than 20% of the Village of Bloomingburg's 400 or so residents have signed a petition that has triggered a voter referendum on whether or not the village should continue to exist as a political entity. If the village is dissolved, its various functions would be absorbed by the Town of Mamakating, which has a population of about 12,000.

The initiative was sparked by the concern of some residents that people moving into the 396-unit development being erected by developer Shalom Lamm and marketed to the Hasidic community would overwhelm the tiny hamlet.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other officials in Albany have recently been urging the merger of municipalities and their functions, and in 2009, New York State passed a law that will make the dissolution process a bit easier than it would otherwise have been.

The law, called the New York Government and Citizen Empowerment Act, allows for village dissolution to be initiated either by the elected officials or by residents of the village, and at several points during the process, the public has the option of sparking more referendums through petitions.

In this case, the elected officials, mayor Frank Gerardi and trustees Katherine Roemer and James Johnson, were among the signers of the petition; the referendum is scheduled for September 30.

Under the act, the consolidation agreement or dissolution plan between the village and town will not be developed until after the referendum passes. If it does not pass, the process stops.

According to information on a New York State website, once a proposed plan is prepared by the governing bodies, voters have the opportunity to conduct another petition drive to require a second referendum, this time on the plan itself. If that drive is successful and another referendum is held, it too must pass in order for the reorganization to take effect.

The two governing bodies then approve the dissolution plan by resolution, and no later than five business days after that, the plan must be displayed, posted on websites and published in a general circulation newspaper at least once each week for four successive weeks.

One or more public hearings on the proposed agreement or plan must be held. These hearings may be held jointly or separately.

Within 45 days after the governing body approves the final plan, the voters may file a petition with the village clerk to compel yet another referendum,
This petition must contain the signatures of 25% of the voters in the village.

Finally, the measure must be put to a vote of the voters in both the town and the village.

The village has hired the Leberge Group as a consultant and the process will be explained at a meeting on August 5.

There have been 48 village dissolutions in New York State since 1900, including the Village of Andes, which dissolved into the town of the same name in Delaware County in 2003. Since 1940, 23 villages have been incorporated.

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