KIRYAS JOEL - A controversial plan to double the size of the Hassidic community of Kiryas Joel is under legal scrutiny as questions are raised about whether the deal is constitutional.
Daniel Richmond, attorney for anti-annexation group United Monroe, says political districts that are defined by a particular religious group cannot be created under the U.S. Constitution. He says this is exactly what will happen if Kiryas Joel is allowed to double in size.
The growing population of more than 20,000 people in the Kiryas Joel community desperately needs more room. The concern raised by Richmond and United Monroe is that the community is exclusive to the Satmar Hassidic religious group, who historically vote in a block.
Richmond submitted a letter last week to the Town of Monroe, saying if the board voted "yes" to give Kiryas Joel 507 acres of land, it would be violating the First Amendment Establishment Clause of Separation of Church and State.
Monroe officials did not want to comment on the letter or about the constitutionality of the proposal, but town board member Dan Burke said, "For months United Monroe has been saying it is not about religion. Now it is about religion."
Kiryas Joel officials did not return News 12's calls for comment. The land deal is currently on hold during a state review.