CHESTER - The Town of Chester may have to wait another five years before it can institute wards to replace the current system that elects Town Board members at large.

The push for a ward system came fast and hard after some local residents concluded it was a way to mitigate the bloc-vote power of the Greens at Chester, a Hasidic development under construction that is expected to add approximately 3,000 residents to the town of 12,000.

The town put it on the ballot in November, and Chester overwhelmingly approved, with 75 percent of the votes cast in favor of the proposition.

“People were scared about losing representation,” said Stephen Keahon, co-founder of Preserve Chester, a nonpartisan citizen’s group that led the push for wards. “It was our main initiative. Voter apathy is a big concern.”

Within weeks, the Town Board voted to approve a change in local law to allow for the establishment of a ward system.

But the next step will likely take longer, said Chester Supervisor Robert Valentine.

Because each ward should have approximately the same number of residents, boundaries will be drawn after the 2020 census is complete, said Valentine.

The town will begin the process when population numbers are available in 2021, and state law dictates that wards can be instituted only in odd-number years.

That will delay making wards a reality until 2023, said Valentine.

“The residents voted overwhelmingly for it, and we will not hold it up,” said Valentine. “We will do it as quickly as possible when we have the information.”

For now, the town will form a committee made up of residents. It will also retain consultants to help in the process.

Several towns in the region with growing Hasidic populations, including Blooming Grove, Mamakating and Ramapo, have adopted ward systems.

heasley@th-record.com