Friday, April 21, 2017
The Orange County Legislature may take the next formal step in its halting review of an eight-month-old petition to create a Town of North Monroe by voting in June to schedule public hearings on the proposal.
Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia said this week that he expects the Rules, Enactments and Intergovernmental Relations Committee to discuss setting hearing dates at its May meeting, and that at least two hearings likely will be held in different locations. The Rules Committee met Wednesday, but didn't take up the scheduling of hearings or revisit steps required for an environmental review that it had tabled in March.
Some 2,240 people petitioned the Legislature last August to create a new town by detaching the Village of Kiryas Joel and surrounding land from the Town of Monroe. If approved by a two-thirds supermajority of the Legislature, or at least 14 of 21 lawmakers, the proposal would be put to Monroe voters to decide in a referendum in November.
The petition asked to join 382 acres of unincorporated Monroe land with 691-acre Kiryas Joel to form North Monroe, although the amount of additional land involved could decrease through negotiations. Brescia, who hoped to find a compromise most Monroe voters could support, recently held a private meeting with three legislators representing the area and leaders of Kiryas Joel and the United Monroe citizens group to let them air their views on the position.
Participants say the discussion was cordial and productive, but only an opening conversation. No agreements were reached, and the parties decided to share no details about the discussion.
Brescia said he plans to hold another private discussion about the North Monroe proposal that includes members of the Monroe Town Board, and perhaps another meeting after that to involve representatives of the neighboring towns of Woodbury and Blooming Grove.
The 382 additional acres in the town petition includes 164 acres that Kiryas Joel annexed in 2015, an expansion that the Monroe Town Board approved and that United Monroe, Orange County and eight towns and villages continue to challenge in court. A state Supreme Court judge dismissed two separate lawsuits by those parties last year, but the plaintiffs have appealed the decision.
The creation of a new town would give Kiryas Joel additional space to accommodate its rapid population growth and constant housing demand. At the same time, it would separate the Hasidic community and its large voting blocs from Monroe Town Board elections, a longtime source of contention in the town.
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