Monroe needs help from the Orange County Legislature on Thursday

Sep 4th, 2017 | By | Category: 2017 Election, Action Item, Annexation, Editorial, Kiryas Joel, Times Herald Record

Let Us Vote on Monroe's Future!

We have a problem that no other municipality in Orange County has. The residents of one of our villages aspire to a quality of life virtually opposite that of the rest of our town’s residents. Kiryas Joel seeks urban-style living, multi-family residences and sends most kids to private schools. The rest of us cherish our current suburban and semi-rural area, single-family homes, and our well-respected public schools.

For the last decade or so, this clash of aspirations has caused an ongoing struggle for control of town government and its authority over annexations, zoning, hiring and board appointments. The result has been stalemate and dysfunction in local government to a degree not seen elsewhere in our region.

Due to KJ’s continuous growth, the battle to elect the town board is no longer a fair fight. KJ’s monolithic voting bloc cannot be overcome. However, because its annexation attempts were stymied for years by widespread grassroots activism and multiple litigations, KJ is also tired of the fighting. To everyone’s surprise, the vigorously opposed sides did the unimaginable by negotiating a peace treaty of political separation in which the village and just 56 acres would move out of Monroe into a new town called Palm Tree and no longer vote in town elections. Separation would give Monroe political independence, just like that long enjoyed by its neighbors Woodbury, Blooming Grove, Chester, Cornwall and all other towns in the county.

Creation of Palm Tree requires four yes votes. It received the first two approvals last week when the boards of education of the Monroe-Woodbury and Kiryas Joel school districts voted to change their boundaries to protect the M-W district. On Sept. 7, the Orange County Legislature will vote. If 14 of its 21 legislators vote yes, then all of Monroe’s voters get the last word in a townwide referendum in November.

This peace treaty offers hope of a new and better way forward for all of southern Orange County. It ends litigations and their legal fees. It prevents annexation attempts of land from Monroe and Blooming Grove for at least 10 years. It’s started conversations between KJ and Woodbury to settle other lawsuits and already produced one agreement. A yes vote by the legislature has been endorsed by both county executive candidates, Monroe’s Democratic Committee, the villages of Harriman and Monroe, the grassroots organization Preserve Blooming Grove, and NYS Assemblyman James Skoufis, among others.

It is highly unlikely a separation opportunity will come again. More probably, KJ will conclude it has no choice but to return to the old way of fighting, take control of Monroe’s town board again and for all time, giving itself the authority to rezone and populate the town’s 13,000 acres as necessary instead of just the additional 56 in Palm Tree. Think for a moment about the major issues that would present to Monroe’s neighboring towns and all of Orange County.

Let this not be a political or divisive issue. In the spirit of cooperation, we ask each legislator to help Monroe and thereby all of Orange County. Thursday’s vote is an up or down on one issue only: should the residents of Monroe and Kiryas Joel have the opportunity to decide on Palm tree for themselves? There is no middle ground. As was said about another time and place and holds true today, either you’re part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.

-Michael Egan a 35-year Monroe resident and co-founder of United Monroe and Preserve Hudson Valley.

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