Friday, September 08, 2017

Town of Palm Tree approved by Orange Legislature, Monroe residents vote in two months 

The Orange County Legislature voted 18-3 in favor of a referendum regarding the creation of the Town of Palm Tree carved out of the Town of Monroe. The new town, subject to approval in a Monroe town-wide referendum, would carve 56 acres from Monroe and add them to the Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel.

A large showing of county residents came to take part in the public comment period before the vote Thursday night, many in favor of the referendum for Monroe voters to decide the fate of the potential new town's forming.

Emily Convers, chairwoman of United Monroe, said given the local impact and divisive nature of the issue, that giving the Monroe locals an opportunity to vote on the fate of their town was the best way to maintain both the interests of the people of Kiryas Joel and Monroe.

"The people of Monroe are smart and engaged," said Convers. "You fight, so that the fighting can end. You fight, so that a solution can be found. We found a solution. We want the fighting to stop. Trust us with this decision."  

Kiryas Joel representatives expressed their support and appreciation for the legislature's decision.

Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin said they are glad that "a new era of peace" is coming to the Monroe area.

"We are going to be building on this peace process going forward and resolving all the differences, understanding each other and both communities, understand what the priorities for those communities are, and we're hopeful that this is going to be a brand new beginning with having dialogue and discussion, instead of litigation and hard feelings," Szegedin said.

Those who were opposed maintained that the issue was one of procedure, rather than policy.    

County Legislature Democratic Minority Leader Matthew Turnbull, one of the three who voted against the referendum, said he had tried to allow time for a non-partisan blue ribbon, but it was denied. He added that, based on what he believed to be a lack of investigation into the impact of the succession, as well as declaring three legislators were not privy to the meetings that ultimately lead to the vote coming before the legislature, he could not vote in favor, regardless of whether he felt the town split was the right call, or not.

"To be clear, I am not saying no to a solution. I'm saying no to a back-room process that is in conflict with my sense of what good government, for the people, by the people is all about and good government would produce a better solution," said Turnbull.

Legislature Chairman Stephen Brescia said there was nothing secretive about the vote coming to the legislature and adequate time was given for them to come to the decision that a vote yes was what the majority of people were communicating.

"I believe in home rule," said Brescia. "Why would we not allow the Town of Monroe to vote for this? We would allow the Town of Crawford, the Town of Wallkill, the Village of Cornwall, the Village of Chester, the Village of Warwick, the Town of Warwick and so on, and so forth. We would allow them to vote for this. The people there want separation, equal separation. That's what they want. That's what they're telling us. I think loud and clear… most of them."

Following public hearings, the referendum will appear on the November general election ballot for Town of Monroe voters.

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