Skoufis responds to Seven Springs petitioners’ opposition memo

MONROE. Petitioners to form the Village of Seven Springs are now lobbying the state Legislature to oppose Senator James Skoufis’ bill to strengthen village incorporation laws.

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State Sen. James Skoufis calls his efforts to amend state law as to how villages are created “common-sense legislation.'

The lawyer representing the Town of Monroe residents who have petitioned the town to create a new village calls the senator’s effort discriminatory and “a shift in raw power, not wise public policy.”

The petitioners want to incorporate a new village - the Village of Seven Springs - out of land in the Town of Monroe. Monroe Supervisor Tony Cardone has not acted on the petition because he said there remains litigation regarding annexation issues involving the Village of Kiryas Joel.

The current state legislative session is scheduled to end June 19. Currently, the bill is listed as “on floor calendar” in the Senate and remains “in committee” in the Assembly.

In a memorandum, attorney Steven Barshov urges all legislators to vote against Senate Bill S5793A (Skoufis) and its companion Assembly Bill A7997 (Thiele).

“The principal purpose of Senator Skoufis’ introduction of 55793A is to prevent the incorporation of Seven Springs, a community that is composed largely of Hasidic Jewish residents and property owners,” Barshov writes. “The Bill would deprive the Petitioners of one of the most fundamental rights in our democracy — the right to join together to form a more perfect union; in this instance their own village.”

“That right of local self-determination was created in 1874 when the New York State Constitution was amended to prohibit formation of a village by a slate legislative local law, Barshov continued. “Since then, and for the past 145 years, each and every village in the State of New York has been formed by local residents or property owners petitioning and then voting to establish their own village government. That precious right would be abolished by the Bill.”

Points of oppositionIn addition, Barshov’s memorandum includes the following points:

“There is an important public policy reason why power over incorporation is now vested with local electors and not with town elected officials. Town officials are highly likely to oppose formation of a new village because they lose power and control when a new village is formed. Indeed, it is precisely because local residents and property owners are not satisfied with town governance that they choose to exercise their right of self-determination and form a new village.

“For the past 145 years that power has been vested with the people who would be governed by a proposed new village and that is precisely where it should remain.

“The Bill is simply a shift in raw power, not wise public policy. Its purpose is to vest control over village incorporation in the town supervisor who has no reason or incentive to approve it. Confirming the lack of thoughtful public policy behind the Bill, it would tie a “public interest’ determination to consistency with a Town’s comprehensive plan, when many towns have never adopted such a comprehensive plan, and none are required to by law.”

“It is no coincidence that State Senator Skoufis is the sponsor of S5793A, as he has steadfastly opposed the expansion of Kiryas Joel and the annexation into Kiryas Joel of the territory now proposed for incorporation as Seven Springs. It is notable that Senator Skoufis did not propose the Bill when non-Hasidic residents used the existing Village Law to incorporate the Villages of Woodbury and South Blooming Grove abutting the Village of Kiryas Joel for the express purpose of hemming in the largely Hasidic Village of Kiryas Joel and preventing its future expansion.”

“The decision to incorporate should be vested in local citizens,” attorney concludes, “not in a town supervisor.”

ResponseIn a tersely worded statement, Skoufis responded:

“It comes as no surprise that Seven Springs petitioners are desperately pulling all the stops to try and prevent common-sense legislation from being enacted. My bill would hold hostile village incorporation petitions like Seven Springs accountable to the town they are trying to form within.

“Also not surprisingly, their lobbying memo is riddled with exaggerations and falsehoods in an attempt to hoodwink lawmakers. In an attempt to raise the specter of discrimination, the Seven Springs petitioners question why I did not propose legislation to prevent the incorporation of the Villages of Woodbury and South Blooming Grove,” the senator added. “These villages were created in 2006 when I was 18 years old, just out of high school, and nowhere near stepping foot in the state Legislature. The petitioners’ lies reinforce what we already knew: these disgruntled developers - looking to cash in on a new village - will say and do anything to get their way. I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues as we work to advance my common-sense legislation that updates our state’s archaic village incorporation laws.”

- Bob Quinn

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