Orange County, NY - Amid Opposition From Neighbors, Kiryas Joel Takes First Legal Step In Creating Town Of North Monroe
Orange County, NY - A petition filed Monday with the Orange County Legislature by representatives of the Village of Kiryas Joel has begun the legal process that would create the Town of North Monroe, removing Kiryas Joel and some parcels of adjacent land from the existing Town of Monroe.
A Statement for Reasons of Change that accompanied the petition explained that the plan to split the town is an effort to eliminate the resentments and friction that have steadily been growing in the area over the last 20 years.
The petition noted that Kiryas Joel residents prefer high density housing, giving them access to crucial infrastructure, while their neighbors to the south in the Town of Monroe have sought to maintain a more rural lifestyle, prompting continuous clashes between the two groups.
The petition also noted that Monroe residents have expressed concern about the growing political power wielded by Kiryas Joel residents, giving them the ability to influence the vote in Town of Monroe elections. Splitting into two towns would give each the ability to have its own board, to be elected only by residents of that town.
“Separation will eliminate the Kiryas Joel block-vote effect on all town of Monroe elections, a major issue over the years and thereby reducing community tensions,” predicted a statement released by the Village of Kiryas Joel. “Monroe residents are entitled to chart their own course by electing town leadership without any influence from the Kiryas Joel residents, but this can only be made possible by splitting off the Town of North Monroe.”
According to Kiryas Joel officials, the existing Town of Monroe is comprised of 13,632 acres of land. The proposed division would allocate only 1,082 acres to the Town of North Monroe, giving the new town just over 50 percent more land than is currently held by the Village of Kiryas Joel.
Government relations coordinator for Kiryas Joel Ari Felberman said that the creation of an independent Town of Monroe was in keeping with the teachings of the Satmar Rebbe, who taught his followers that they were forbidden to impose their will on their non-Jewish neighbors.
“Kiryas Joel, therefore, never ran its own candidate outside village bounds,” Felberman told VIN News. “But Kiryas Joel grew and along with it, its influence on town-wide elections, leading to the appearance that Kiryas Joel was imposing its will on its neighbors.”
Establishing the Town of North Monroe would allow Kiryas Joel residents to follow the teachings of the Satmar Rebbe while still exercising their constitutional right to vote and is just another effort by the village to live harmoniously with its neighbors, said Felberman.
“This proposal follows a string of Kiryas Joel’s successful efforts to opt out of interfering with neighbors for the sake of peace, they are: school district, library, pipeline, fire department and sewer plant.”
Emily Convers, chairwoman of United Monroe, which has clashed repeatedly with the Village of Kiryas Joel, described the petition as a back door effort to the Kiryas Joel’s annexation attempt that remains in the courts.
“It is another way to grab land, a creative way to use municipal laws to gain hundreds of mostly rural acres to build high density housing,” said Ms. Convers.
The promise of removing Kiryas Joel’s votes from elections within the Town of Monroe rang hollow for Ms. Convers, who suggested that if the village was truly interested in ameliorating its disproportionate influence on local elections it would create the new town solely within its existing boundaries without adding any additional acreage.
Ms. Convers also questioned the concept of a block vote, saying that Kiryas Joel’s leadership overstepped its bounds by attempting to sway election outcomes.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if the village leadership of Kiryas Joel actually followed municipal law and didn’t promote candidates in the first place?” questioned Ms. Convers. “We don’t have our town government sending out newspapers telling people how to vote and how to think. Why do you have influence in the first place? You are a municipal government and not supposed to be controlling the hearts and minds of your residents, you are supposed to be representing them.”
If the Orange County Legislature adopts a resolution to create the Town of North Monroe by a two thirds vote, a proposition for splitting the existing Town of Monroe into two towns would be submitted for a public vote at either a regular or a special election.
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