MONROE — The Hasidic group that petitioned to form a new village next to Kiryas Joel has sued the Town of Monroe to demand its proposal move forward and to stop what it alleges was an attempt by Kiryas Joel's administrator to derail the village plans.
The conflict over the proposed Village of Seven Springs is spelled out in a convoluted sequence of events, involving multiple revisions of the village petition, a mugging outside Monroe Town Hall in which one of those versions was stolen, and a hurriedly emailed annexation request by Kiryas Joel that put the Seven Springs proposal on hold.
Steven Barshov, the petitioners' attorney, argues in papers filed Thursday in state Supreme Court that the annexation request Kiryas Joel Administrator Gedalye Szegedin sent Monroe on March 28 was illegitimate for multiple reasons, and shouldn't be taken up by the Town Board or further delay the Seven Springs petition.
"Petitioners simply seek to incorporate their land into a Village and have properly filed the Incorporation petitions in good faith," Barshov wrote.
Their proposed village would take in most of the remaining unincorporated land in northern Monroe, a 1.9-square-mile territory that is bigger than Kiryas Joel and the new Town of Palm Tree and has large, undeveloped tracts. It includes a Hasidic neighborhood west of Kiryas Joel but is otherwise sparsely populated, with just 295 voters to decide the fate of the proposal if and when a referendum is held.
State Sen. James Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, introduced a bill in response to the petition this week that would add new requirements for creating a village and could lead to Seven Springs' rejection if his bill becomes law. The legislation would require petitioners to show their proposed village serves the "overall public interest" and allow all town voters — not just those in the village area — to take part in a referendum.
The first Seven Springs petition was filed in August, triggered by frustrated property owners whose land wasn't annexed into Kiryas Joel or made part of Palm Tree. It sat on hold until past annexation cases were fully resolved in March, and a revised version was submitted that now included part of Harriman Commons Shopping Center — an additional 90 acres of tax ratables.
One week later, lead petitioner Herman Wagschal was approaching Monroe Town Hall with a third version of the petition when two men who apparently objected to his village jumped and beat him, and one grabbed the petition and drove away. The assailants were arrested, and Wagschal submitted a fourth petition the following day.
Just minutes before the assault, Szegedin emailed Monroe Supervisor Tony Cardone a request for Kiryas Joel to annex 70 acres off Larkin Drive in Monroe where the village has a park and some wells. Since those parcels were included in the Seven Springs petition and Szegedin's email arrived before Wagschal's latest village filing, the annexation request took priority over Seven Springs and put the village on hold again.
The Town Board hasn't acted on the March 28 annexation request yet, and is not scheduled to do so at its next meeting on Monday.
Barshov argues in his lawsuit that Kiryas Joel's mayor and trustees never authorized Szegedin's annexation request, and that it was invalid anyway because the parcels proposed for annexation aren't adjacent to Kiryas Joel.
If his case is successful, or if the Monroe board rejects the annexation request, Cardone would have to decide if the Seven Springs petition met all requirements in state law, and schedule a referendum if it does. The creation of Seven Springs would then be decided by a majority of voters in the village area, with no further action by any government body.