Dispute over agency in Kiryas Joel expansion plan stalling deal

Three agencies are fighting to spearhead a study on the impacts of the plan. (3/6/14)

ORANGE COUNTY - An ongoing dispute in Orange County is stalling a controversial land deal to double the size of the Hassidic community of Kiryas Joel.

Three agencies are fighting to spearhead a study on the impacts of the plan, but the Department of Environmental Conservation has yet to make a decision. So far, Kiryas Joel has applied for lead agency, as well as the Town of Monroe and the Monroe-Woodbury School District.

The proposal, and Kiryas Joel's involvement, is highly criticized by some who say the town board isn't trustworthy because they were voted in by Kiryas Joel's block vote.

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The concern is that the deal will lower property values in town and overcrowd the area with high-density housing.

The impact on property and school taxes are also a concern, with the county reporting that the tiny village of Kiryas Joel receives almost as many social services as the cities of Middletown and Newburgh.

The issue has prompted local leaders like Assemblyman James Skoufis to respond in writing to the state, requesting a second look be taken at who is appointed lead agency. County Executive Steve Neuhaus has promised in writing to oversee the process regardless of who is chosen.

The DEC was expected to make a decision at the Monroe Town Board meeting on Monday night but has now said it could take weeks to come to an answer.

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