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Towns React To Toss of 164-Acre Annexation Lawsuit Appeal

Towns React To Toss of 164-Acre Annexation Lawsuit Appeal

By Edie Johnson

A lawsuit that has been lingering the courts for years related to the Kiryas Joel annexation of 164 acres was finally tossed out this week.  The suit first questioned the thoroughness (or lack thereof) of the environmental review in which Kiryas Joel claimed that their annexation of 164 acres would have NO  impact on the environment.  No less than 12 towns and villages, as well as the County of Orange originally participated in the suit, along with Black Rock Fish and Game Club.  One by one the litigants dropped out of the lawsuit saying that the seemingly neverending fight was costing too much money, with each litigant contributing $20,000 to start and then having to refurbish the legal funds as the appeal went forward.

Asked this week what he thought of the lawsuit appeal being thrown out, Blooming Grove Supervisor Rob Jeroloman said he “Strongly disagrees with the decision”, adding that “The Town’s hydrogeologists and other professionals clearly showed that the expansion will have significant negative impacts on the surrounding municipalities.  The Village of South Blooming Grove was first named in the appeal decision, being located closest to the annexed land, and likely to have the most impact from the growth.

In explanation of the original court decision, Judge Gretchen Walsh had said that the decision was not an easy one given that there will almost certainly be higher density development as a result, higher density that would likely impact the environment. But, her final decision was based on the fact that there had not yet been any concrete injury.  Jeroloman said that did not make good sense to him, “What should we do, wait until the aquifer goes dry?”  Blooming Grove has one of the most prominent hydrogeology companies in the world on their team, and townspeople have become well-educated about the effects of overuse on a good aquifer, which as it becomes depleted leads to “dead water” … water that doesn’t have the right microbial balance with the surrounding earth and will lose its ability to have a healthy “recharge”.

Village Mayor, Jim LoFranco, said that he agrees with the Supervisor’s assessment.  The Village has already been on water restrictions throughout the Summer, and has millions of dollars of costs that will be going toward new filtration systems since the addition of new residents, which include a lot of KJ transplants, stresses both the aquifer and the aged lines that run to and from it, especially since their water resources already include a lot of iron and manganese.

As far as the final appeal decision (unless the towns spend yet more money on a Supreme Court challenge),  the decision states that the dispute is a “moot point”, because the acreage in question has now become part of the Town of Palm Tree.

Why, residents and officials want to know, does it matter what the name of the municipality is that has plans that will have negative impacts on its neighbors?”  Should the litigants be expected to start all over, with the designated land that now has a new name?

While the decision referred to possible future concrete damage being required to have new SEQRA studies that will have to justify project impacts, the surrounding towns wonder if and when the lawsuits and their associated costs will ever end.

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