'Village of Seven Springs is dead.' Last-minute bills kill plans for new Orange County village
An Orange County neighborhood's plan to become its own self-governing village was shot down as Gov. Kathy Hochul signed two pieces of legislation at the last minute.
Organizers from the Seven Springs neighborhood, on the edge of Monroe and bordering Kiryas Joel, decried the latest bills that were just signed into law.
Organizers had been battling in court – in some cases, successfully – to get permission for the community of about 600 residents to incorporate into its own village.
One of the new laws, sponsored by State Sen. James Skoufis (D - District 39), now requires that the community seeking incorporation into a village have 2,000 residents to be considered.
The threshold used to be 500 residents.
"The village of Seven Springs is dead," Sen. Skoufis said in a Zoom interview Tuesday.
Skoufis – a longtime opponent of projects and community expansions in Orange County's growing Hasidic community – suspects the Seven Springs organizers wanted to carve their own village out of the Town of Monroe so they could create their own land-use and zoning laws, allowing them to build without limits.
"The petitioners – and in this case, a couple of extremely wealthy and aggrieved developers – were still looking to create this unjustifiable village," Skoufis said.
Some Seven Springs residents told News 12 their roads, trash service and drainage are not as good in their neighborhood as those services are in other parts of Monroe.
They said they wanted to form their own government which would give priority to their community of about 70 households.
The campaign to start a new village began in 2018, after the neighborhood was left out of a land annexation deal, which created the village of Kiryas Joel.
Kiryas Joel is now the most populated municipality in Orange County, with about 39,000 residents, according to the US Census; more than half the population is under age 18.
The Seven Springs residents were not alone in their disappointment.
Even an opponent of incorporation, Monroe Town Supervisor Tony Cardone, said he had "mixed feelings" about the new laws.
Aside from Skoufis's law, another law now requires village incorporation petitions to be filed with a state-level board, the Village Incorporation Commission.
The legislation was originally sponsored by State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D - District 35).
Previously, those petitions would be filed with the town supervisor's office, giving municipal officials greater control to shape their communities.
The law effectively strips towns like Monroe of that control.
"It becomes a hypocrisy when it comes to home rule, which we lose," Cardone said in an interview Tuesday at Town Hall. "We essentially lose our ability to control our own municipality."
Herman Wagschal – one of the main organizers fighting for creation of a new village – declined comment when reached by phone Tuesday.