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Skoufis Bill Passes Senate, Adds Restrictions to Creation of Villages, Now Sent to Gov. To Sign

ALBANY- A bill that changes the minimum size required for village incorporation from 500 to 2,000 residents has passed the State Senate and is poised to pass the Assembly in the final hours of this year’s legislative session.

This change could block an effort that began back in 2018 to create a new municipality in Orange County, known as the Village of Seven Springs, located adjacent to the existing Village of Kiryas Joel. The creation of this new village has been a hot-button issue since the effort to incorporate the new village began back in 2018.

The bill is sponsored by State Senator James Skoufis (D, Cornwall) who represents that portion of Orange County in the the Senate. He said the bill was needed to address the Seven Springs incorporation effort for several reasons, the chief of which was protecting against overdevelopment.

“Since its conception in 2018, the proposal to create Seven Springs has been a revenge-fueled effort to bend New York’s antiquated and inadequate village incorporation laws,” said Skoufis. “These unscrupulous developers have cared about one thing and one thing only: changing zoning in order to make money at the expense of our local quality of life.”

Skoufis’ proposal also requires 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.

“I’ve been fighting to reform the state’s village laws and, this week, I was thrilled to see these efforts born out. A lot has changed in New York since the 1800s, and the statue that ultimately governs neighborhood character, taxpayer responsibility, and local home rule are finally catching up to 2023,” the lawmaker said.

A key provision of the bill, besides significantly increasing the number of petition signatures, is that it eliminates an antiquated provision that gives landowners who own half of the assessed property the ability to petition for village incorporation. Under the current law, after petition signatures are collected, voters who would reside in the new proposed village would take part in a referendum vote. If approved, a new municipality with its own government and zoning laws would be created. Skoufis’ plan would take this power away from landowners looking to create a new municipality solely to create favorable zoing laws to develop their properties.

The bill does not retroactively apply to villages that have already been incorporated, but it will impact the pending efforts for incorporation, like in the case of Seven Springs.

The area that encompasses the proposed Seven Springs Village is land that was not annexed from Monroe to the Village of Kiryas Joel back in 2017. At the time, Kiryas Joel annexed less than half of approximately 500 acres, leaving the Seven Springs area out of the annexation. The Hasidic property owners from that area were not pleased with being left out of the annexation, which prompted the Village of Seven Springs effort. Since that time, the battle has continued both in and out of the court with suits filed by the property owners as well as the Town of Monroe.

Just two months ago, Monroe officials petitioned the state’s highest court to hear the matter; however, the court is yet to take action on their request.

Skoufis urged the governor to sign the measure.

Source: Mid-Hudson News

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