Orange County Legislature Approves Town of Palm Tree Referendum Vote
John Jordan | September 2017
GOSHEN—After hearing impassioned testimony on both sides of the issue, the Orange County Legislature on Sept. 7th overwhelmingly approved a resolution by an 18-3 margin to allow a petition calling for the separation of the orthodox Jewish Village of Kiryas Joel from the Town of Monroe to go to a referendum vote this November.
If approved by the voters on Nov. 7, the Village of Kiryas Joel would form the Town of Palm Tree. The affirmative vote would also settle litigation brought by Orange County, United Monroe, Preserve Hudson Valley, Kiryas Joel and other municipalities concerning past land annexation requests by the Village of Kiryas Joel.
United Monroe, Preserve Hudson Valley and Kiryas Joel recently reached an agreement whereby if voters approve the separation petition in November, United Monroe and Preserve Hudson Valley will drop their litigation contesting the Town of Monroe’s approval of the 164 annexed acres to Kiryas Joel. In addition, Kiryas Joel, if voter approval were granted in the referendum to the petition, would in turn drop its litigation contesting the Town of Monroe’s denial of its 507-acre annexation proposal and would also not submit any annexation application in either the Town of Monroe or Village of Blooming Grove for a period of 10 years.
Prior to its vote on Sept. 7th, the Orange County Legislature held public hearings on Aug. 15th and 16th on the separation initiative at Central Valley Elementary School and at the Bais Rachel Paradise Hall in Kiryas Joel respectively.
At those public hearings, as well as prior to the vote on the referendum, legislators heard from a host of Town of Monroe residents who pleaded to give the town a “lifeline” from the block vote that they charge has wrestled control of the town from non-Orthodox Jewish residents. Opponents claimed that the referendum petition was unconstitutional and was the result of “back room” bargaining between United Monroe, Kiryas Joel leaders and a few county legislators.
Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia countered prior to the vote that the resolution was before the County Legislature for about a year. The fact that the 2,300 petition applicants from the Town of Monroe and Village of Kiryas Joel made compromises and amended the original petition was critical, he noted. The school boards of Monroe-Woodbury and Kiryas Joel both recently approved the changes to the petition.
Brescia, who also serves as the mayor of the Village of Montgomery, said, “I believe in home rule. Why would we not allow the Town of Monroe to vote for this?”
On Nov.7, voters could radically alter what has been a contentious relationship between the Village of Kiryas Joel, the Town of Monroe and surrounding communities. From now until the vote, the debate will rage as to the impact such a separation might have on the region for years to come.