A bill introduced Wednesday by state Sen. James Skoufis could derail a pending petition by Hasidic property owners to create a new village in Monroe by adding criteria to state law that could lead to the proposal's rejection.
The legislation would amend the state's simple standards for forming a village by requiring petitioners to show that their proposals serve "the overall public interest" and are consistent with the Comprehensive Plans of the towns in which they would be established. The only requirements now in state law are that petitioners gather enough signatures and that at least 500 people live in the area that would be incorporated.
Skoufis' bill also would subject village petitions to a referendum of voters from the entire town, not just those in the proposed village. That provision would make a big difference in Monroe, where only 295 of the town's nearly 13,000 voters would be eligible under current law to decide whether to form a 1.9-square-mile Village of Seven Springs.
Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, said by phone that the existing rules "handcuff" town supervisors by allowing them to weigh only technical aspects of a petition's legitimacy before putting it to a referendum. His bill would broaden that judgment to factor in the town's "overall interest" and Comprehensive Plan, its blueprint for future growth.
"In the Town of Monroe's case, it's clear to anyone who's objective that there would be impacts beyond the boundaries of the proposed Village of Seven Springs," Skoufis said, mentioning the likelihood of "significant rezoning" and a "tremendously negative impact on the town's finances."
Skoufis said that Assemblyman Fred Thiele of Long Island, an Independence Party member and chairman of the Assembly committee that will take up the legislation, will sponsor the village incorporation bill in the Assembly. He said he has been courting support for the legislation for the last couple of months and is "cautiously optimistic" about its prospects.
It would have to clear both the Senate and Assembly before this year's session ends on June 19 and be signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to have any effect on the Seven Springs proposal. The village petition is pending before Monroe Supervisor Tony Cardone, who has put it on hold until the Monroe Town Board decides on a request by the Village of Kiryas Joel to annex 70 acres that were included in the Seven Springs petition.
Assemblyman Colin Schmitt, a New Windsor Republican, introduced a village incorporation bill in March that would increase the minimum number of residents for a new village to 2,000 and require a townwide referendum. That proposal, which would take effect four months after being signed into law and likely couldn't affect the Seven Springs petition, has no Senate sponsor and hasn't advanced in the Assembly.
The Skoufis bill specifies it would apply to any petition awaiting a supervisor's determination on its "legal sufficiency" — which includes the Village of Seven Springs, for the time being. It mandates a townwide referendum on whether a village petition serve the "overall interest," regardless of whether the supervisor approves or rejects it for that reason.