Kiryas Joel Looks to Form Town of North Monroe
John Jordan | August 2016
KIRYAS JOEL—Representatives of the Village of Kiryas Joel announced a plan earlier this week to begin a petition drive that would seek to have the Orange County Legislature approve the formation of the new Town of North Monroe, which would consist of the existing Kiryas Joel community and reportedly an additional 382 acres outside of its borders.
In its Aug. 16 press announcement of the Town of Monroe petition drive initiative, Kiryas Joel officials stated that the goal would be to begin the legal process of splitting the Town of Monroe into two separate municipalities. The drive is seeking a minimum of 650 town resident signatures. If the drive is successful, the petition would be delivered to the Orange County Legislature to vote on the request. If approved by a two-thirds majority of the Orange County Legislature, the issue would go before a referendum of eligible voters in the Town of Monroe.
In the press release, Kiryas Joel stated that the underlying reasons for the move to form a new town and separate from the Town of Monroe are “the differing lifestyles of residents in the Village of Kiryas Joel and its immediate vicinities in the town, and those town residents living south of Route 17.” The press announcement later stated, “Those differences have created tensions between the groups for over two decades but could now be ameliorated by the division of the existing Town of Monroe into two separate towns.”
The new Town of North Monroe would be located entirely north of Route 17. Politically, the formation of the new town would mean the Kiryas Joel electorate would no longer vote in any of the Town of Monroe elections. The new town would also require consolidation of local fire districts and changes to the school district boundaries between the Monroe-Woodbury and Kiryas Joel School districts.
“Many people have complained about Kiryas Joel voters having too much of a say in the Town of Monroe. We agree with the many people who have suggested over the years that creating two separate towns is the most practical way to alleviate that concern,” said Village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin. “We firmly believe that this is an important step in the healing process for these two communities.”
The group United Monroe released a statement to the Photo News newspaper requesting the County Legislature deny the Town of North Monroe proposal. The citizens group, which has been lobbying against previous expansion plans by the Satmar Chasidic Jewish community, stated, “If the KJ government wants to move its village out of the town, it can do that immediately. Nobody stands in its way. But requiring a payment of almost 400 acres of wooded town land for high-density housing and 40,000 additional residents is patently unacceptable.”
Orange County and eight municipalities filed suit last year to invalidate the Town of Monroe’s approval of a 164-acre annexation of land to Kiryas Joel as well as the environmental review of that annexation. Kiryas Joel in turn filed suit to overturn the Town of Monroe’s denial of an annexation request of 507 acres.
Orange County Executive Steven Neuhaus released a statement in connection with the new Town of North Monroe plan by Kiryas Joel. Neuhaus stated, “We will have our Planning and Real Property offices conduct an analysis of this proposal compared to the annexation. However, while the annexation litigation is pending, I think the chance the County Legislature would consider this idea is slim to none.”