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Senator Skoufis Overhauls Village Incorporation Laws -Seven Springs Petition on the Ropes

Senator James Skoufis at Monroe Town Hall With Assemblyman Chris Eachus Senator James Skoufis (D-Orange County) announced Monday that his bill (S.7538) to overhaul New York’s antiquated village incorporation laws passed both chambers and will soon be headed to the Governor’s desk. The measure makes critical updates to the 1800s-era statutes responsible for the creation of new villages, and is expected to significantly impact the contentious Village of Seven Springs proposal. When an annexation of land from the Town of Monroe to the existing Village of Kiryas Joel took place in 2017, a handful of disgruntled property owners left out of the newly-annexed territory launched a counter-attack, attempting to form a separate village of their own in 2018 that included wide tracts of undeveloped land and just under 300 voters. The village, to be known as Seven Springs, received little public support, however, under existing state law governing village incorporation, little could be done to oppose the petition. By law, landowners who own half of the assessed property within the proposed village could petition for incorporation, and just 500 residents would need to support the effort for the petition to progress. The subsequent journey to establish Seven Springs has played out like a comedy of errors, leading to seemingly endless litigation. Following the introduction of the Seven Springs petition, Skoufis advanced legislation to update New York’s village incorporation laws, which had remained virtually unchanged for six decades. This year, buoyed by findings of a recent report from Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law on the need to reform and refine the process of village incorporation, Skoufis’ legislation passed both houses. Key provisions of the bill include:

  • Increasing the minimum number of residents required for new village incorporation from 500 to 2,000, better reflecting the massive population growth of New York State over the past 150 years.

  • Eliminating a section of law that enables owners of half the property value within the proposed village area to petition, a vestige of the political power of the 1800s.

  • Requiring that a study be conducted on the fiscal, service, and taxation impacts on the residents of the proposed village, and the residents of the surrounding town, in order for a village incorporation to move forward. “From the very beginning, the proposal to establish Seven Springs has been little more than a revenge-fueled attempt to harness New York’s dated and utterly inadequate village incorporation laws to suit the desires of a handful of wealthy developers,” said Skoufis, the three-term Senator representing Monroe. “When a new village is incorporated, the goal is to maximize local control over the tax base, zoning/land use, code enforcement, and/or other municipal services. In this case, the petitioners of Seven Springs have profit squarely in their sights–and little else. By reforming village incorporation statute statewide, we’re protecting our open space, preserving local character, and sending a strong signal that money and influence have no place in our communities.” One glaring example of village incorporation gone wrong is the hamlet-turned-village of Mastic Beach, on Long Island. Just six years after its 2010 incorporation, Mastic Beach voters opted to dissolve the newly-created village, recognizing the fiscal insolvency of this new taxing authority. Skoufis’ proposal to require more comprehensive studies of feasibility would have staved off this whiplash dissolution. “The consequences of unsustainable village creation can be devastating to a community, whether that be in regards to stress on water, sewage, infrastructure, or debt in the case of insolvency” said Assemblymember Eachus, a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Assembly. “This new law, if signed by the Governor, will ensure that village creation matches the original intent of the law: villages for people, not for profits. I want to give special thanks to my colleague Senator Skoufis for carrying the mantle on this issue and fighting to get this passed since 2019, and I was proud to make sure this critical legislation got done in the Assembly. The residents of Monroe can now rest easy knowing that frivolous village creation attempts will no longer occur under our watch.” “Changing zoning in order to make a buck is something we won’t stand for,” added Skoufis. “Our Orange County quality of life is worth the fight.” Town of Monroe officials are currently engaged in litigation with the Seven Springs petitioners. PACE LAW REPORT AVAILABLE HERE:

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