Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Kiryas Joel's annexed tracts awaiting development 

A preliminary ruling by an appeals court last week turned a corner in the legal fight over Kiryas Joel's annexation of 164 acres, enabling the village to rezone those properties and field applications to develop that land at what will almost certainly be greater density than the Town of Monroe would have allowed.

Generally known in shorthand only by its total land size, the 164-acre area filling in crevices in Kiryas Joel's jagged border includes a lake and a swank new housing development that reduce the amount of land available for construction. All told, after subtracting those properties, roads and other pieces unfit for development, village officials estimate that roughly 95 acres in the annexed territory could be developed - or enough for about 2,000 housing units under current village zoning.

Among the biggest tracts awaiting development is a recently cleared area near the corner of Forest and Mountain Roads, a nearly 25-acre opening with housing all around it. For about a dozen years, electronics mogul and developer Ziggy Brach has nurtured plans for a housing complex called Forest Edge at that site - a project with 55 lots under Monroe's zoning. But with that land now part of Kiryas Joel and subject to new zoning rules, it soon could be eligible for denser development.

Across the village is another big piece of open land in the annexation area: the Monroe section of a farm field that straddles two towns. The landholding arm of the Hasidic community's main congregation bought ACE Farm - a 140-acre expanse in Monroe and Woodbury - for almost $12 million in 2004, and has left it untouched as a bucolic neighbor since then. Now, a 20-acre corner of the farmland off Acres and Bakertown Roads is part of Kiryas Joel and subject to whatever new zoning is put in place.

Village officials said last week that they expect rezoning to take a few months, and it's unlikely any major development will take place in the annexation area until that process is over. In the meantime, two court cases challenging Kiryas Joel's annexation in 2015 remain pending in the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. Both sets of plaintiffs - the nonprofit Preserve Hudson Valley and a government coalition consisting of Orange County and several towns and villages - have appealed Supreme Court Justice Gretchen Walsh's dismissal of their lawsuits in October.

An Appellate Division panel last week rejected the plaintiffs' requests for preliminary injunctions that would have stopped Kiryas Joel from rezoning the annexation area or permitting denser development than Monroe allows while the appeals are pending. That cleared the way for the village to take control of the future development.

Across Mountain Road from Brach's Forest Edge property are more than 10 acres of annexed land that can't be developed at higher density, because upscale homes have just been built there under Monroe's zoning. Builders there are finishing construction on Vintage Vista, a complex with 28 housing lots that at least in some cases have been turned into duplexes with two separate homes. Homes in Vintage Vista are as large as one with 6,900 square feet of living space and nine bedrooms, according to county records.

Also off the table for development is Coronet Lake, which takes up much of a 35-acre parcel off Acres and Bakertown roads. Kiryas Joel's consultants have estimated that about seven acres are fit for construction.

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