Proposals to incorporate the hamlet of Pearl River as a village have been made and discussed on a periodic basis over the past few years.
Approximately 20 years ago, a contingent of local residents expressed frustrations over a cluster of homes being built in the hamlet and suggested that incorporating and controlling the land use of the hamlet would be beneficial. Approximately ten years ago, a number of local residents including Keith Kennedy raised the subject of village incorporation anew. Keith Kennedy is the owner of the Pearl River Hotel, a tavern located at 4 South Main Street, in the downtown center of Pearl River. At that time, Keith explored the concept and entertained the ideas and input of patrons, guests and visitors to the Pearl River Hotel.
The concept thereafter remained dormant, but not dead, until this past year, when the persistent talk of local frustration with land use controls and the inability to control the quality and character of the local community revived the discussion. Recent land use projects had drawn together diverse segments of the local community in presenting a grassroots opposition to the development projects. Their vocal discussions created a desire to preserve the current quality and character of the hamlet and protect it from adverse changes. This discussion prompted Keith and others to put together an Exploratory Committee to identify relevant and material issues, investigate and research the available options for addressing those issues, and analyze and recommend solutions to the issues to the public.
The following local residents immediately volunteered their time and energy toward the task and the Village of Pearl River Exploratory Committee, Inc. ("Exploratory Committee") was formed on or about April 25, 2016:
Keith Kennedy, 89 Fillmore Street, Pearl River, NY 10965
Michael Kelley, 18 Van Buren Street, Pearl River, NY 10965
Vincent King, 45 Harding Street, Pearl River, NY 10965
Peter Hughes, 107 Buchanan Street, Pearl River, NY 10965
James Kelly, 29 Buchanan Street, Pearl River, NY 10965
The goals and objectives of the Exploratory Community are set forth in its purpose clause:
To investigate the bona fides of incorporating the Village of Pearl River in the Town of Orangetown and/or Town of Clarkstown; to determine the territorial boundaries for any such village; to determine what form and structure of government is most advantageous; to determine the essential services to be rendered by any such village; to determine the effects and ramifications of incorporating; to report on the bona fides of incorporation, including positive and dissenting opinions, with a summary and detailed review of governance issues, and to publish same in locales or forum available to the public; to engage in fundraising activities to cover for investigative, legal surveying, assessing, accounting and other business related costs.
The Exploratory Committee has remained dedicated to its purposes and focused on identifying issues, investigating and researching the available options for addressing the issues, and, after completion of such analysis, and identifying, considering and recommending possible solutions to the issues, the Exploratory Committee respectfully presents this Preliminary Report ("Report").
In the Exploratory Committee’s efforts in identifying, investigating, researching, and analyzing issues, we have reviewed the efforts of other local municipalities that have pursued the idea of incorporation. We have tried to utilize the successes and failures of those efforts to guide us. We recognize that no path is certain to provide complete answers to all relevant questions. We have tried to tailor our efforts toward those particular issues that most affect the residents of this community.
This Report summarizes the current state of governance and the effect incorporation would likely have on Pearl River’s services including justice court, law enforcement, zoning and planning, and taxation. We have investigated the changes that incorporation would have on home values and taxes. We recognize that clear answers or conclusions are sometimes difficult to determine, and we articulate our own interpretation of the factual information and the basis for our conclusions and recommendations so that the public may review the same and use it to further the education on whether village incorporation is beneficial or not. Whenever it is possible, we cite to the sources of information relied upon to allow the reader an opportunity to analyze our factual findings and intelligently respond to same. For some, village incorporation might offer insufficient benefits above and beyond those which the Town of Orangetown already provides. For others, it might be a healthy step toward preserving this community, which is treasured and highly valued by all who have come to know it, and constitute a desired step toward self-determination of issues of local concern.
The Report also explains the basic process afforded to residents who wish to incorporate Pearl River as a village under existing New York law, explains the benefits to the community of incorporation, and explains that dissolution is permitted as well should the incorporation go poorly.
At its end, the Report provides our Recommendations, based on our own investigation, analysis and conclusions and we stand behind the Recommendations stated, even though set forth in preliminary form, in full. We hope to finalize our Final Recommendations, after allowing the community to comment on the Report. We hold no monopoly on good ideas. There are many members of the community who can add to this discussion and aid us before we render any final Recommendations. The Exploratory Committee started with a small group of residents in the dead Presidents section of the hamlet and it not intended to be limited in scope or purpose to that section. It is intended to include the participation of many views of others throughout the hamlet in its final form.
It is worth reiterating that this Report represents the best collective judgment of the Exploratory Committee members who volunteered their time and individual efforts to this project. Should Pearl River decide to pursue incorporation as a village, this Report is not intended to be a substitute for the legal advice that may be required from time to time as legal issues arise and should not be taken as such. If the residents of Pearl River vote for the formation of a village, the mayor and trustees elected, initially and in the future, may make different assumptions or conclusions than the Exploratory Committee has made here, which could result in different priorities and different consequences. Nevertheless, we respectfully offer this Report of the Exploratory Committee to encourage public discussion and debate on the benefits of village incorporation.
The Report is organized into the following sections:
The three land use development projects that triggered renewed interest in exploring the concept of incorporating a village are: (a) the Hillside self-storage development project; (b) the Anellotech biofuel facility’s expansion project; and (c) the Club at Pearl River. These projects have each individually and collectively rankled local residents. The projects triggered fierce local, grassroots opposition that proved unsuccessful in thwarting projects approved at a Town level of government. Local residents were unhappy with the change in the residential nature of the hamlet’s center to be caused by the Hillside project and the environmental risks of same, the adverse health risks presented by the Anellotech project, and the continuing change from commerce in the commercial corridor to residential usage in the approval of the Club at Pearl River project. Each approval highlighted a growing disenchantment and sense of disconnect between locals in the hamlet of Pearl River and our Town government over matters of land use and its regulation, contributing to the belief that the Town is non-responsive to local concerns.
On April 27, 2016, the Town Planning Board gave final site plan approval to the Hillside self-storage development project. The project seeks to improve a strip of land located between the railroad tracks and State Route 304 (formerly Pearl Street), just north of the hamlet’s center. The project has encountered vigorous opposition from local residents who believe it will negatively affect the character of their neighborhood and potentially damage same via significant drainage water runoff issues. The strip separates the areas main northern thoroughfare from the neighborhood’s residential homes. In 2008, the Town Planning Board ruled that the quality and character of the neighborhood would not be changed by cutting down the trees that served as an historical divide and replacing them with self-storage units, 24-hour lighting, and a warehouse.
The vigor of the local outrage led to the creation of a local community group known as "Residents United to Save Hillside" (RUSH) and organized efforts to oppose the project. RUSH undertook fund-raising efforts, presented formal and informal opposition expressing the views of the local residents, and hired counsel to fight the project. The intensity of those efforts and the lack of success by RUSH throughout the approval process prompted a sense of disconnect between the Town and the locals that has grown since 2008.
In approving the project’s final site plan, the Town Planning Board members who voted in favor refused to explain the justification for their votes to the 80 or so local residents who attended the Town Planning Board meeting that evening. The majority vote carried 4 to 1. While Planning Board member Bob Dell, who cast the sole vote against the project, explained his opposition and Michael Mandel, who recused himself, explained his own views, the majority failed to explain their votes to those in attendance. From the public record of that evening’s vote, no one would know the contentious and controversial nature of the project or why the law or facts compelled the majority’s votes. While the approval was not necessarily in doubt, the final site plan approval cemented the growing disconnect that the local residents have with the Town, the Town’s land use boards, and the Town’s vision for future development in the hamlet’s center.
Litigation over the vote and its consequences is currently pending in a local New York State court and no matter the outcome it will be difficult to bring the local opposition to trust Town government to protect them and their interests ever again.
When Anellotech announced plans to expand its research and development biofuel facility in Pearl River, more than 1,100 people joined a Facebook page to express opposition to the project. A local, grassroots "Stop Anellotech" effort followed. There was a distinct fear that the facility would emit dangerous chemicals, including benzene, xylene, and toluene from sawdust, out of its smokestack. This project proposed converting non-food bio-mass into petrochemicals that could be used to replace petroleum products and, possibly, help combat global warming since the petrochemicals leave a smaller carbon footprint than petroleum products. It would emit gaseous waste through its vent pipe, after a catalytic oxidizer approved by a NYS governmental agency processed the gaseous waste. The emissions would be colorless and odorless, but would include dangerous chemicals emitted into the air above a residential community. The company represented that the facility met all federal and state air-quality standards and that the level of potentially harmful emissions is less than government guidelines, but did not appease locals who resided nearby.
In pitching the project, Anellotech explained that all of its employees are bachelors, masters, chemical engineers, chemists, Ph.Ds, and electrical engineers who supposedly all know about safety and suggested that the company would not do anything that would increase the health hazards to its own employees. The local residents were outraged by the public propaganda campaign. The locals contended that there was no suggestion that the gases to be emitted from the facility’s vent pipe were collected from the ambient air inside the facility where Anellotech’s employees worked, but rather consisted of the by-products of its completed operations – its commercial waste – and presented a health hazard to those outside the facility, i.e., a neighborhood concern. The locals protested the increased health risk to the locals from the emission of toxic chemicals into the neighborhood air.
Signs sprung out all over the hamlet expressing the desire to "Stop Anellotech", by just saying "No to Anellotech." On September 10, 2014, the Town Planning Board approved the project, finding that it would not have a significant adverse impact upon the environment. Shortly thereafter, on January 21, 2015, the Town Zoning Board approved the company’s performance standards. These findings, tied to an allegation that a relative of a zoning board member worked for the company chosen to write the "independent report" investigating Anellotech's emissions claims, furthered the local outrage that the Town government was growing ever more disconnected from the local residents and businesses. It preferred businesses over people.
Shortly after the Town Board approved the Anellotech project, Anellotech opted not to move forward with its project, for reasons unrelated to the approval process. The decision was made after board approval for the project had been secured. The outcome was favorable for the local residents but at a great cost as it showed them the large disconnect between the Town and the locals regarding the type of area in which the residents want to live and work.
To locals, the Anellotech approval, in addition to presenting a neighborhood health hazard, forecasts that Type A uses of the largest available tract of property is in jeopardy. Should the neighborhood health hazard dissuade others contemplating a Type A investment in the hamlet from doing so, the effects of the approval will reverberate for years to come. Usage of property for purposes that present health hazards encourages similar future usage from others who are willing to tolerate the health hazard, it does not encourage use by those who will not tolerate the risk.
The Club at Pearl River
The Club at Pearl River, being built as a 160 unit project for individuals aged 55 and over, is a project sitting on a commercial corridor and was put to residential use. One to two- bedroom rentals are offered, starting this summer – in 2016. The change is character of the commercial corridor is dramatic. And, the conversion of the commercial corridor to residential usage is concerning for many.
Other instances have contributed to the local outrage, but these triggering events have brought the members of the Exploratory Committee together to act. Additional local concerns have been voiced over what properly reflects the community views for comprehensive planning purposes, for commercial zones, for roadways and thoroughfares, for minimum lot sizes, for park lands, and numerous other issues of concern. A moratorium and a chance to create a properly suited comprehensive plan, with new zoning maps, is warranted. People have expressed frustration and the Land Use Application Form currently employed contains language requiring an application to waive the right to a speedy hearing within 62 days, without any discussion of the need or justification for waiving a significant statutory right. An examination of these issues is believed to be an appropriate part of the process of determining the justifications for and against village incorporation because any local government should be responsive to its local community.
The history of the lands which would form the Village of Pearl River is extraordinary. In the early 1700’s Dutch colonists began to populate the Hackensack River Valley in the eastern portion of the hamlet and the Pascack Valley in the western portion of the hamlet, under the Kakiak Patent which extended from the vicinity of Montvale, New Jersey to Pomona, New York. The relics of that population is found in various sandstone Dutch Colonial houses found throughout the community.
After the British assumed control of the area, Middletown Road became a trafficked way with one stage stop in the house located at the corner of Old Middletown Road and Orangeburg Road.
In 1870, Julius E. Braunsdorf, commonly referred to as the "Father of Pearl River", designed the street layout when the only existing streets were Pearl Street (now State Route 304) and Washington Avenue. He drew a wide main street through the middle of the hamlet and called it Central Avenue, running parallel to Washington Avenue. Parallel to Central Avenue, he also drew Franklin Avenue and to connect these three parallel streets he drew three streets named after his sons, William, John and Henry. At the center of this downtown area, is Mr. Kennedy’s Pearl River Hotel, along with a United States Post Office and a train station, whereby train service is afforded by the NJ Transit/Metro-North Railroad via the Pascack Valley Line. Mr. Braunsdorf built the Aetna Sewing Machine Company, then the largest factory in Rockland County, and constructed low-cost housing for his employees whom he attracted from his homeland of Germany. He established no local government.
The surrounding streets have been developed and dramatically improved in the years since. The hamlet has been home to substantial people and businesses. One central person in the development of the hamlet was Dr. Ernest Lederle, who established Lederle Antitoxin Laboratories in 1906, which became Lederle Laboratories in 1930 and was a major supplier of blood plasma during World War II. Lederle Laboratories was a pharmaceutical division of American Cyanamid Corporation for many years. It developed and marketed for sale antibiotics and vaccines, for diphtheria, tetanus, typhoid, anthrax, smallpox, cholera and gas gangrene. It developed vitamins like Centrum. In 1994, Lederle was sold to American Home Products Corp. and the site was renamed Wyeth-Ayerst, before being renamed Wyeth in 2002 and then merged with Pfizer in 2009. It has employed many, saved many, and occupies a huge piece of the hamlet’s history. There is an enormous 500-acre Lederle preserve at the hamlet’s northern boundary line.
The hamlet of Pearl River is a census-designated place in the Town of Orangetown that lies in the western portion of the Town of Orangetown in part of what is referred to as the "unincorporated area" or the Town Outside Villages (TOV). The Town of Orangetown itself is comprised of approximately 24 square miles bounded by the western banks of the Hudson River on the east and Bergen County, New Jersey on the south and west. It is located approximately fifteen miles north of the George Washington Bridge and is the southernmost tip of Rockland County, New York. Orangetown’s population as of the 2010 Census is 49,212. To the north are the Towns of Clarkstown and Ramapo, moving east to west. Its location in Rockland County and the State of New York is depicted below:
The hamlet of Pearl River is shaped in the form of a triangle. The place of beginning is at the point of the triangle meeting at the division line between New York and New Jersey at the boundary line between the Town of Ramapo and Town of Orangetown. The northern boundary line extends in a northeasterly direction along the southern boundary of the Town of Ramapo and then an easterly direction along the southern boundary of the Town of Clarkstown, to a point in the center line of the Hackensack River at or near where West Nyack and Orangeburg meet. The eastern boundary of the hamlet runs from the northeastern-most point in a southerly direction through the center line of the Hackensack River to a point in the middle of Veterans Memorial Parkway, where it turns to the east along the north and easterly side of several parcels on the easterly side of the Hackensack River to a point in the division line between the states of New York and New Jersey. The southern boundary line is the division line running from the southeastern-most point in a northwestern direction along the state division line to the place of beginning. The hamlet is generally considered to be co-terminus with the territory and boundaries of the Pearl River Fire District.
As of the 2010 Census, Pearl River’s population makes up about 32% of the entire population of the Town of Orangetown. For comparison purposes, as of the 2000 census, there were 15,553 people residing in the hamlet. The average density was 824 people per square mile. 33.6% of the households had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.4% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24% were non-families. 25.3% of the population was under the age of 18. 8.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The racial makeup of the hamlet was 72% white, 6.4% African American, 7.2% Asian, .05% Native American, .02% Pacific Islander, and .57% from other races. Hispanic or Latinos of any race were 6.44% of the population.
As of the 2010 census, the population grew modestly to 15,876. The hamlet is reportedly the second largest in New York State.
|Population||Percent of Town
|Villages Population Total||13,070||26.60%|
|Unincorporated (TOV) Area|
|Rest of Unincorporated||20,266||41.20%||56.10%|
|Unincorporated (TOV) Population Total||36,142||73.40%||100.00%|
|Total Unincorporated and Villages||49,212||100.00%|
|Villages Population Total||13,101||27.50%|
|Unincorporated (TOV) Area|
|Rest of Unincorporated||19,057||39.90%||55.10%|
|Unincorporated (TOV) Population Total||34,610||72.50%||100.00%|
|Total Unincorporated and Villages||47,711||100.00%|
The unincorporated area of the Town of Orangetown takes up about 19.1 square miles. The seven areas that make up the unincorporated area are Pearl River, Orangeburg, Palisades, Blauvelt, Tappan, Sparkill, and Upper Grandview. The hamlet of Pearl River encompasses about 7.1 square miles of the unincorporated area of the Town of Orangetown. Therefore, Pearl River’s square mileage represents about 37% of the Town’s total square mileage. According to the United States Census Bureau, the total area of 7.1 square miles (19 km2) includes 6.9 square miles (18 km2) of land above water and 0.3 square miles (.79 km2), or 4.87%, is land under water. The rest of Orangetown is home to four already established independent villages: Nyack, South Nyack, Piermont, and Grand View-on-Hudson.
Pearl River is a hamlet or unincorporated area governed by the Town Government of the Town of Orangetown. The Town of Orangetown currently has an at-large system of electing the Town Board, which means all the Town’s voters elect the Town Supervisor plus the four Town Board Members, sometimes referred to as Councilmen. This is in accordance with Town Law Sec. 20(1)(a). The Town Supervisor serves a two-year term and the four Town Board Councilmen each serve four-year terms (with two elected every two years).
While the residents of the hamlet of Pearl River vote in the general election for Town Supervisor and Town Board councilmen, the residents of the hamlet of Pearl River do not directly approve Town or Village budgets in the Town of Orangetown, as they do with the school district budget. The Town Supervisor and four other councilmen are elected as at-large representatives and serve as the Town Board, the Town of Orangetown’s legislative body. They are the elected representatives. The Town Board appoints the members of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals.
With a village, the village legislature is the board of trustees composed of a mayor and four trustees. The Board is responsible for approving mayoral appointments including members of the land use boards – Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals, management of village finances and property, and approving a budget. The mayor, who is generally regarded as the chief executive officer, may vote in all business brought before the board and must vote to break any tie. The mayor does not have any veto power, absent a local law granting such power. The mayor’s administrative duties include enforcing laws and supervising employees. If it so desires, a village may have a full-time village manager perform the administrative duties instead of the mayor.
A village is subject to the Village Law of the State of New York. A village is a municipality that may provide services to residents, which may or may not include garbage collection, management of cemeteries, street and highway maintenance, street lighting, and building codes. Some villages provide their own police and other municipal services. A village is the smallest form of government which may exist under the New York State Constitution and laws. It would exist within the Town of Orangetown, and not cover any territory in the Town of Clarkstown.
The village form of government is regarded by most political scientists as the most responsive of governments. Its sphere of influence is largely parochial. The mayor and trustees reside in the community and are responsive to the community on a direct, daily basis. With a village government, local residents will have local control and many may prefer having locals tackle issues rather than community outsiders. The planning and zoning will follow local mandates. The building department personnel, for example, will not be responsible for handling town-wide issues. The personnel will address, follow-up on, and solve village concerns. The Exploratory Committee believes that a village government is preferred and suggests that any incorporated village attempt to avoid redundancies in the provision of services to best produce a locally responsive form of government.
There are other alternative and/or supplementary approaches to local government which may be offered on a town-wide basis. The citizens of the town may elect to convert to a ward system or council district system, whereby the town is divided into various wards and representatives are elected from the ward to the town board. Each ward has its own representative on the Town Board.
Currently, approximately a dozen towns out of the 932 existing in the State elect councilman by ward. Such option is permitted, under sections 81 and 85 of the Town Law, for a town of the first class, like the Town of Orangetown, upon vote of the Town Board or upon a duly qualified petition, submitted to the voters. If approved by voters, the County Board of Elections would divide the Town into four wards and fix their boundaries. "So far as possible the division shall be so made that the number of voters in each ward shall be approximately equal." See Town Law Sec. 85(1). Should the voters elect to increase the number of councilman from four to six, then the number of ward districts would also increase from four to six, and require the drawing of six wards. (Op. Atty. Gen. [Inf.] 90-63; 1968 Op. Atty. Gen. [Inf.] 52; 13 Op. St. Compt. 223, 1957).
The ward system of government is sometimes criticized as a tool employed to prevent an entrenched political power from losing control over its historical base when a certain segment of the community consists of an ever growing population of members associated with another political faction. Oftentimes, the entrenched political power proposes to convert to this form of government to slow the loss of power from those areas where its members hold a majority of the population, while sacrificing the individual ward most at risk to the ever increasing population of an insurgent political faction. In such circumstances, it is likened to closing the hatches on various decks of a sinking ship and trapping those below to save those on the higher decks.
Another criticism of ward propositions is that the voters are not informed of the wards’ boundaries at the time of the ballot, but rather the boundaries are fixed by the County Board of Elections sometime thereafter. The lack of definitiveness given to the voter of the boundaries at the time of the ballot oftentimes thwarts the public from preferring the ward system of government. Voters do not appreciate efforts undertaken by entrenched political powers to redefine jurisdictional boundaries of voting districts when tied to the desire of the entrenched political power to preserve its historical power, notwithstanding changes in the population represented. Voters do not trust handing the power to define the wards’ boundaries to the County Board of Elections. In the neighboring Town of Clarkstown, the ward system is preferred over the incorporation of any new village and recent clamor and dispute surrounds the drawing of boundary lines for the individual wards.
Historically, a ward system has been a common component of New York State government. The ward system style of government still exists to a great extent when electing members of the United States House of Representatives, the New York State Assembly, the New York State Senate, and the Rockland County Legislature, whose members hold office elected by district-by-district voting. Once elected to the body of government the representatives then transact business on a majority vote. As the number of new villages has decreased to 4 within the past 16 years, some Towns have included discussion of the ward system in the place of another layer of subordinate government.
The ward system was phased down on the local level by the rise of villages which, to a large extent, became a type of a new ward system. Within the villages, the Village Board’s own elections can be by at-large vote or via district as well.
It is quite possible that the Town of Orangetown may determine that it is in the best interests of the communities served by Town Government (which would include either the hamlet or village of Pearl River) to establish ward-voting districts. On this point a village of Pearl River may opt, on a cumulative basis, to also establish ward-voting districts for the election of village trustees. In this manner, either the Town or Village elections, or both, could avoid control of a majority of the governing councils by neighborhood voting on a bullet basis.
To be a village, the area of incorporation must have at least 500 inhabitants. Additionally, the proposed villages can be no more than 5 square miles (13 Km2) in area unless its boundaries are to be co-terminus with a school, fire, improvement or other district, already existing within the Town.
In considering the available options, the least favorable option is one that limits the proposed village to 5 square miles in area. The hamlet of Pearl River is the second largest in New York State and encompasses approximately 7.1 square miles and a population in excess of 15,000 individuals. Pearl River includes single-family and multi-family homes, townhouses, condos, and apartments. The center of town includes a busy downtown shopping area on Central Avenue with a variety of stores and restaurants. Pearl River also includes schools, houses of worship, businesses and other commercial structures. Along Veterans Memorial Parkway is the Hilton Hotel, a 160-room structure, and the Blue Hill complex, a 21-story high-rise with 1.2 million square feet of rental space. Pfizer Pharmaceutical is located on Middletown Road and is composed of 550 acres, and 40 commercial buildings. While the village could be confined to 5 square miles or less, determining where to draw a boundary line within the hamlet, to exclude a portion of the population and businesses is not the preferred option.
Co-terminus consideration of other established tax districts involved consideration of the school district, sewer district and fire district. The Pearl River School District was not preferred because its boundaries have been extended beyond the "hamlet of Pearl River" to accommodate areas not otherwise served by shared municipal services (e.g., Betsy Ross neighborhood) while also not covering homes located within the Pearl River zip code. (The postal zip code boundary for Pearl River is 10965. The map of the zip code does not use clear, well defined boundaries as it includes parts of the Village of Chestnut Ridge and excludes other areas more commonly associated with the hamlet.) Thus these boundaries are not clear or well defined. Specific street addresses available by clicking here. The Pearl River School District Map is annexed.
Likewise, the Sewer District was not preferred because clear, sustainable boundaries do not exist as these services are commingled with the rest of the Orangetown and the Rockland Sewer Districts. The Sewer District Map is annexed as well.
The preferred option is to make the village co-terminus with the Pearl River Fire District. The reasons for this recommendation are as follows:
The preferred territory to be covered by the Village, co-terminus with the Pearl River Fire District, is generally described as follows: The place of beginning is at the point of the triangle meeting at the division line between New York and New Jersey at the boundary line between the Town of Ramapo and Town of Orangetown. The northern boundary line extends in a northeasterly direction along the southern boundary of the Town of Ramapo and then an easterly direction along the southern boundary of the Town of Clarkstown, to a point in the center line of the Hackensack River at or near where West Nyack and Orangeburg meet. The eastern boundary of the hamlet runs from the northeastern-most point in a southerly direction through the center line of the Hackensack River to a point in the middle of Veterans Memorial Parkway, where it would turn to the east along the northerly and easterly sides of several parcels on the easterly side of the Hackensack River to a point in the division line between the states of New York and New Jersey. The southern boundary line is the division line running from the southeastern-most point in a northwestern direction along the state division line to the place of beginning.
A metes and bounds description from a licensed surveyor, certified as accurate and complete, is necessary before any petition to incorporate is prepared or presented. The Exploratory Committee has reached out to Robert R. Rahnfeld for his assistance, and he has graciously offered to assist any incorporation effort on a voluntary basis, without charge. A map and metes and bounds description are set forth below:
Village of Pearl River Territorial Description
All that certain part, piece or parcel of land, situate lying and being in the Town of Orangetown, Rockland County, New York, being more particularly bounded and described as follows:
BEGINNING AT A POINT situated on the New Jersey-New York State Line, being the western corner of the land about to be described, said westernly point also being the intersection of the Orangetown-Ramapo Town Line and the southeast corner of the Village of Chestnut Ridge with the New Jersey-New York State Line (SPC NY East - N 812635.60 - E 615979.59) and running thence:
Easternly along the Orangetown-Ramapo Town Line the following courses and distances
1. North 81 degrees 27 minutes 19 seconds East 1454.15 feet (N 812851.66 - E 617417.59)
2. North 89 degrees 24 minutes 57 seconds East 33.53 feet (N 812852.00 E 617451.12)
3. North 80 degrees 50 minutes 20 seconds East 1434.88 feet (N 813080.45 - E 618867.70)
4. South 21 degrees 39 minutes 25 seconds East 7.83 feet (N 813073.18 E 618870.59)
5. North 76 degrees 40 minutes 15 seconds East 148.81 feet (N 813107.48 - E 619015.39)
6. North 83 degrees 07 minutes 36 seconds East 2004.30 feet (N 813347.35 E 621005.29)
7. THENCE northerly along the Orangetown-Ramapo Town Line North 08 degrees 07 minutes 30 seconds West 4751.91 feet to the intersection of the Orangetown-Ramapo-Clarkstown border corner (N 818051.56 - E 620333.69)
8. THENCE easterly along the Orangetown-Clarkstown Town Line North 82 degrees 15 minutes 45 seconds East 5625.850 feet to the center of North Middletown Road (N 818809.00 E 625908.31)
9. THENCE southerly along the Orangetown-Clarkstown Town Line South 07 degrees 59 minutes 50 seconds East 236.84 feet along the center of North Middletown Road to the intersection with the southerly line of Hovencamp Avenue (N 818574.46 E 625941.26)
10. THENCE easterly along the southerly line of Hovencamp Avenue North 82 degrees 47 minutes 56 seconds East 896.69 feet along the Orangetown-Clarkstown Town Line (N 818686.86 - E 626830.88)
11. THENCE easterly along the along the Orangetown-Clarkstown Town Line South 81 degrees 57 minutes 12 seconds East 2272.92 feet along the along the Orangetown-Clarkstown Town Line to the center of the intersection formed by Blauvelt-Erhardt and Town Line Roads (N 818368.70 - E 629081.42)
12. THENCE easterly along the Orangetown-Clarkstown Town Line running about the centerline of Town Line Road about 7076 feet more or less to the easterly side of Sickletown Road (N 818240.16 - E 636156.40)
13. THENCE easterly along the Orangetown-Clarkstown Town Line South 88 degrees 15 minutes 48 seconds East 1833.83 feet along the southerly side of Quail Hollow Lane (N 818184.58 E 637989.39)
14. THENCE easterly along the Orangetown-Clarkstown Town Line South 84 degrees 28 minutes 50 seconds East 1032.87 feet to the center thread of the Hackensack Creek (now Lake Tappan) (N 818085.23 - E 639017.47)
15. THENCE along the center thread of the Hackensack Creek as it meanders southerly about 3700 feet to the center of the Fifth Avenue Bridge (N 81521914 - E 636729.05) <p>16. THENCE along the center thread of the Hackensack Creek as it meanders southerly about 2000 feet to the center of the Palisades Interstate Parkway (N 813614.43 - E 635872.13)
17. THENCE along the center thread of the Hackensack Creek as it meanders southerly about 3000 feet to the center of the Blauvelt Road Bridge (N 811670.37 E 633920.71)
18. THENCE along the center thread of the Hackensack Creek as it meanders southerly about 2500 feet to the center of the Convent Road Bridge (N 809482.27 - E 634967.74)
19. THENCE along the center thread of the Hackensack Creek as it meanders southerly about 4100 feet to the center of the Veterans Memorial Drive Bridge (N 805684.42 - E 633383.55)
20. THENCE easterly along the center of Veterans Memorial Drive South 70 degrees 21 minutes 30 seconds East 696.30 feet to the centerline intersection of Hunt Road (N 805450.37 - E 634039.33)
21. THENCE southerly along the center of Hunt Road about 1325 feet to the northerly line of the Pearl River Sewer Plant situated on the south line of Hunt Road (N 804134.81 - E 634192.05)
22. THENCE easterly along the aforementioned line of Hunt Road South 75 degrees 11 minutes 04 seconds East 96.82 feet (N 804110.05 - E 634285.65)
23. THENCE southerly along the easterly line of the Pearl River Sewer Plant South 13 degrees 42 minutes 35 seconds West 988.50 feet (N 803149.71 - E 634051.37)
24. THENCE southerly along the easterly line of lands N/F Verizon South 30 degrees 06 minutes 19 seconds West 288.18 feet to the northerly line of Corporate Drive (N 802900.40 - E 633906.82)
25. THENCE e Driveasterly along the northerly line of Corporate Drive South 60 degrees 11 minutes 29 seconds West 92.68 feet (N 802859.30 - E 633978.56)
26. THENCE southerly along across Corporate Drive and the easterly line of lands N/F Verizon South 14 degrees 30 minutes 00 seconds West 585.75 to the New Jersey - New York State line (N 802292.21 - E 633381.90)
27. THENCE northwesterly along the New Jersey - New York State Line North 59 degrees 54 minutes 45 seconds West 20632.27 feet to the Point or place of BEGINNING (N 812635.60 - E 615979.59)
The above described parcel is presently bounded on the west by The Village of Chestnut Ridge Town of Ramapo, on the north by The Town of Clarkstown,on the east by centerline thread of the Hackensack Creek ( Lake Tappan ), the centerline of Veterans Memorial Drive, the centerline of Hunt Road, the easterly line of the former Pearl River sewer station, the easterly line of Verizon property, and on the south by the New York-NewJersey State line and the adjoining Boroughs of Old Tappan, Rivervale & Montvale, Bergen County, New Jersey
The Exploratory Committee conducted extensive investigation and research and analysis into various topics, a summary of which appears here. The Exploratory Committee differentiated and segregated these topics into two sub-groups: (1) governing authorities such as the Village Board of Trustees, Administrative and Judicial Services, Zoning Board, and Planning Board, and (2) actual services. A description of the governing authorities is set forth below, along with a discussion of the services that are currently supplied and what, if anything, would change upon incorporation. In the course of the Exploratory Committee’s analysis, a number of specific issues have emerged as essential to the discussion of the viability of village incorporation. These issues are separately addressed below as well.
Village Board of Trustees
Villages require a mayor plus a board of trustees of at least four people. These officials would be elected subsequent to a vote for incorporation and during an interim period. Such elected officials may choose to hire a professional administrator/village manager and a staff to oversee village operations. These operations include administration, judicial, building, electrical and plumbing inspection, and engineering.
Administrative and Judicial Services
The Village would have a number of options to supply its administration and judicial services. Depending on how many other village services are outsourced, a village could choose to have a very small administration to a full administrative function including a part-time judge and court. Villages may enact their own law or adopt Town law. The village may decide to adopt Town law and modify it. These decisions would be made by the mayor and village board.
For the purposes of the Exploratory Committee’s analysis, we have assumed a Village of Pearl River would have a full administrative function, including an administration comparable to most of the other villages in the Town. Within the Town of Orangetown, while the Village of Nyack has a manager running its executive operations, the Villages of Piermont, South Nyack and Grandview operate with a mayor, clerk and treasurer and no manager at all. The Exploratory Committee prefers operating with a mayor, clerk, and treasurer and no manager at all.
The benefit of commencing government operations in a brand new fashion is that the Village may be able to provide services at substantially less expense than the town or any neighboring town. In New York State, the highest paid general employees are found in: 1. Ramapo: $76,823; 2. Clarkstown: $68,791; … and 4. Orangetown: $65,207. Incorporation may afford substantial savings by avoiding high salary expenses and high recurring charges for benefits and retirement contributions that are mandated by the New York State Constitution.
Zoning and Planning Board
Zoning ordinances for the unincorporated areas of Orangetown, including Pearl River, are adopted into law by the Town Board, which is elected by all Town residents. Building inspection, land use planning, and other zoning matters are performed by building inspectors employed by the Town. In connection with zoning matters in unincorporated Orangetown, the Town Board appoints a Planning Board and a Zoning Board of Appeals from among residents in unincorporated Orangetown. These boards currently review and pass judgment on applications for permits and variances on Town Codes.
Frustration by the inhabitants with a non-responsive land-use boards has been expressed in relation to various local projects, including, but not limited to, the recent RUSH, Anellotech and Club at Pearl River issues.
If Pearl River were to become a village, the Town would no longer have jurisdiction over Pearl River with respect to planning, zoning, building and inspection. After incorporation, Pearl River would have legal authority over village zoning and master plan, subject to legal requirements. Town zoning ordinances would continue until village trustees passed the village’s own zoning ordinances and any non-responsiveness could be tackled promptly. Any carried-over town legislation would remain in effect in the village unless the village enacted local laws that cover the same subject matter of any Town legislation. Until such local laws were approved, village boards and any inspectors would oversee, inspect construction and hear appeals under the Town zoning ordinances.
If Pearl River were to become a village, the village could enact a short term moratorium and explore the best comprehensive plan for local development and usage. Upon enacting a comprehensive plan, the village could redraw its zoning maps to suit the preferred options for local development and usage.
Certain specific zoning issues that would become relevant in the event of incorporation are set forth in the question and answer section below. One issue, in particular, that warrants some mention is the ability to implement and police traffic control measures. If incorporated, the village has the authority to select the means to control and regulate traffic under its general police power, as a governmental function. It may prescribe one-way through streets; restrict speed limits; install signs, barriers or other traffic control devices. It may police those implementations and impose additional restrictions on the flow of traffic into residential streets by limiting access to them. Under prior United States Supreme Court precedent, a municipality may decide that restrictions on the flow of outside traffic into particular residential area would enhance the quality of life thereby reducing noise, traffic hazards and litter. New York State law permits local control to a great degree. The need for such devices and the suitability of such devices to meet particular concerns would be left to the Village to determine based on the particular facts and circumstances.
The Zoning Board and Planning Board, once created, would be responsible for approving applications for development, responding to requests for variances from code, and interpreting village law. Their members would accept office understanding the village’s priorities and receive particular training to ensure adherence to legal requirements when performing their public duties.
Incorporating as a village would have no impact on the operation or control of the Pearl River School District which by law operates independently of any municipality. Its jurisdiction covers a territory larger than that being proposed for the village. The Pearl River School District is treasured by most residents for its high standard of achievement and excellence, having obtained the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award in 2001. Among the School District’s schools, Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award recipients include:
2008 Franklin Avenue Elementary School
2011 Pearl River Middle School
2014 Franklin Avenue Elementary School
The Exploratory Committee proposes no change to the Pearl River School District. The School District will continue to operate, as it historically has, as an independent governmental entity. The village would have no control over or responsibility for the Schools or School property.
The Town maintains a Police Force of approximately 83 sworn officers, 5 civilian dispatchers, 5 clerks/stenos, and about 25 Auxiliary Police Officers. The Police Officers are primarily represented by the Rockland County Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association ("PBA"), a police union. Police Headquarters is located at Town Hall, at 26 Orangeburg Road, Orangeburg, New York. With this Police Force, the Town provides police protection to the unincorporated area, including Pearl River, and maintains a Police Booth in the center of downtown Pearl River; such service is paid for by taxpayers in unincorporated Orangetown. The town also provides a range of services through the police department, including DARE, Youth Court, Youth Police Academy, "school resource officers", school-crossing guards, a Community Policing Unit (CPU), a jail and related services. Animal Control is a town-wide function. SWAT is offered town-wide at a fee.
The services provided by the Town Police Force are generally believed to be among the finest in Rockland County and New York State. The Town Police Department has a well-established track record of excellence in providing police services to the residents in the unincorporated sections of the Town of Orangetown. Since 2007, the Orangetown Police Department has been an accredited agency under the New York State Law Enforcement Agency Accreditation Council, which certifies that the financial management, personnel management and record keeping are exemplary. It also certifies that training standards and operational issues pertaining to things like patrols, pursuits, crime scene management, and evidence handling are exemplary. More, a substantial number of the members of the Police Force reside within Pearl River and its environs. Many members are active in all parts of the Community, including civic associations, charitable organizations, youth sports organizations, and too many volunteer causes to count, among many other beneficial, non-work-related activities. The Exploratory Committee believes that paying top dollar for excellent police service is a fair exchange that should continue in an unchanged and uninterrupted fashion in the event of village incorporation.
Under the law, a village may create and manage its own police force, and if it does so, the town of which it is part may no longer tax the village residents for the cost of maintaining the town police force. Rather, the village would levy such taxes on village residents to pay for the services provided by the village police force. A village may also create a joint police force with another municipality, if another municipality was willing to do so.
Under the relevant legal precedents, if the village were to decide not to create its own police force, the town would be obligated to provide "ordinary and necessary" police services to the village, to provide police protection, and to enforce all applicable laws in the village, including the village’s laws. In that case, the village would be obligated to pay its "proportionate share" of the cost of the town’s police department to the town. It would also have to negotiate for coverage at special events.
If the village wanted "extraordinary police protection" (defined in relevant legal precedent as "specialized police protection of a more intensive nature than usually supplied and including a greater outlay of money, power and equipment"), it could negotiate these services from the town, or another municipality, and pay for them as agreed. It is not clear where the line between "ordinary and necessary" police services and "extraordinary police protection" lies, and the scope of services to be provided by the town in the even the village did not create its own police force would have to be decided, all subject to the obligation of the village to pay the Town its "proportionate share" of the costs associated with such services.
As for the financial impacts of the Police Force, almost 1/3rd of the entire town budget is attributable to the costs of running the town police, including the pay and benefits to the police department personnel. Should the Town fail to maintain its current standard of excellence or refuse to provide adequate police services to the Village, or should the costs of receiving such services escalate beyond acceptable levels, starting fresh with the Village’s own Police Force or contracting for other police service might allow a dramatic reduction in personnel costs. This Report is certainly not intended to limit the options available to the village, if incorporated.
Fire protection services for Pearl River are supplied through the Pearl River Fire District, an independent municipal entity which services only Pearl River. Protection is supplied primarily from a volunteer force from the Pearl River Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 and the Excelsior Fire Engine Company operation out of a two beautiful fire stations, with one located on Central Avenue and the other with immediate access onto State Route 304.
After incorporation, fire protection would become the responsibility of the village. Under the law, after incorporation of a village, a fire district located wholly within the village’s borders would cease to exist as a separate municipal entity, following an interim period of no more than eighteen months. The fire district would become a village fire department at that time and its annual budget of a projected $1.6 million in 2016 would be subject to the review and approval by the village mayor and trustees and included in the village budget.
The organization and structure of the fire department would attempt to replicate the current existing administration of each fire company currently operating within the hamlet.
Certain emergency personnel and services are provided on a town-wide basis. The Town has two volunteer ambulance districts that encompass the entire town: the South Orangetown Ambulance Corps and the Pearl River Alumni Ambulance Corps. The Pearl River Alumni Ambulance Corp is a completely independent organization and receives no funding from the Town government. There is also the not-for-profit, Rockland Paramedics, Inc., which was formed through Good Samaritan Hospital and Nyack Hospital, that provides services to Orangetown, among others.
As for the ambulance coverage in the hamlet, in 1936, the Pearl River Alumni Ambulance Corps was started by Pearl River High School alumni, after a crash at the railroad crossing severely injured four mothers returning from services at St. Margaret of Antioch Roman Catholic Church. The Pearl River Alumni Ambulance Corps offers tax free services and, in 2011, was the Rockland County EMS Agency of the Year award. They are not on any tax rolls and continue to offer services on a voluntary basis.
In the event of incorporation, the emergency personnel and services provided by Orangetown on a town-wide basis would not be affected. However, after an interim period of no more than eighteen months, the Village of Pearl River would have to arrange for ambulance coverage. While the Village is not legally obligated to operate an ambulance service as a department, it could contract for services with the ambulance corps.
Public Works is a broad category including garbage and recycling, street paving and maintenance, street lighting, sidewalks, snow and leaf removal, drainage, and other village maintenance services.
After incorporation, and after an interim period of no more than eighteen months, the Town would not be obligated to provide these services. Therefore, for each service, Pearl River would have the alternatives of establishing its own work force or negotiating a contractual, joint or cooperative arrangement with the Town or another municipality, or with a private contractor.
After incorporation, the Town would not be obligated to provide these services, to the village after an interim period of no more than eighteen months, although the continued provision of services from the Town could be negotiated.
Parks and Recreation
Orangetown parks and recreation facilities include: state and county parks, town parks and open spaces, and school facilities. These facilities are open to all town residents.
If Pearl River were to become a village, based on current practices, rights of access for Pearl River residents to visit these parks and recreation facilities would remain unchanged, except in the rare occurrence where a permit is needed. In fact, residential access to parks and recreation could be controlled by annual permit as well.
At the present time, the Town charges taxpayers in unincorporated Orangetown for the costs of its parks and recreational facilities. Under current practices, if Pearl River were to become a village, its residents would have the same rights of access to town-wide parks and recreation facilities as the residents in the other villages.
Residents in unincorporated Orangetown currently have full and complete access to all the libraries in the Orangetown Library system, including the Blauvelt Free Library, Orangeburg Library, Palisades Free Library, Tappan Library and the Pearl River Public Library, which is supported by taxes raised from residents of unincorporated Orangetown. The Pearl River Public Library is a school district library, and its budget is funded through taxes contained on the Pearl River School District tax bill. After the incorporations, the rights of Pearl River residents to use the library would be unaffected and Pearl River would be responsible for its pro rata share of the related costs as funded in current School Tax bills.
What would happen to the assets and debt relating to the Unincorporated Section of the Town of Orangetown?
Incorporation would have no effect on previously-contracted town indebtedness incurred for town-wide purposes, as it is a liability of the entire town, including the area within the villages. However, a more difficult question is presented with respect to what may be termed part-town indebtedness, that is, indebtedness incurred solely for purposes in the unincorporated area. A literal reading of the existing provisions of law could lead to the conclusion that, when an unincorporated area of a town incorporates as a village, the area within that village would no longer be charged for the indebtedness previously incurred by the town for purposes of the unincorporated area. No case law has been found addressing this specific point and municipal attorneys had differing views on whether, and to what extent, a village would have continuing liability for such debt.
Among the divergent authorities, in a 1966 opinion, the State Comptroller concluded that towns could continue to charge areas within newly-incorporated villages for such previously incurred debt and that the town, in most instances, would continue to own any assets purchased with that debt. The opinion states that the liability for such debt would be the village’s "proportionate share," but does not enumerate the factors for determining such share nor assert that the "proportionate share" is the same as the prior share of the debt. Rather, the opinion states that "[h]ow the proportionate share will be determined must be the subject of agreement and negotiations by the town and the village" and that if an equitable apportionment cannot be agreed upon, the matter would have to be resolved by the courts.
Thus, under the 1966 opinion, if no Town-owned assets would pass to the incorporated village, by right or otherwise, and Pearl River residents might have a continuing obligation to pay a "proportionate share" of the indebtedness incurred by the Town for purposes of the entire unincorporated area prior to incorporation, such "proportionate share" would be determined on equitable grounds, through negotiations with the Town or, failing that, by a Court.
How would the Zoning ramifications of being a Village be different from being part of the Town of Orangetown for these issues?
After incorporation, if it chooses to enact its own zoning and planning regulations, Pearl River would have the right to restrict and regulate commercial and residential development within its borders. However, Pearl River’s right to exercise such control would be subject to certain state and federal zoning laws. These laws require that the zoning plan cannot be arbitrary and must promote the health, safety and welfare of the village.
Moreover, in certain circumstances, the state and federal zoning laws preempt the Village of Pearl River’s zoning authority. In other words, the Village of Pearl River, like any other village, would not be able to exercise its zoning authority without taking into account numerous pre-existing legal requirements. The following is a summary of those requirements, were Pearl River to become a village:
Would Pearl River’s Sewer Services Change?
No. Pearl River is part of a Sewer District that is independent of the village. Services provided from the Sewer District should not change at all in the event of incorporation.
Would Pearl River’s Postal Code change if Pearl River becomes a Village?
No. Postal codes are decided by the federal government and are completely unrelated to the process and existence of incorporation. If it wanted to, the Village of Pearl River could apply to the U.S. Postal Service to obtain a different postal code for Pearl River, but there is no assurance one could be obtained. It would not be necessary and would probably not be desired at all.
Would Pearl River residents continue to have access to parking at the Train Station?
Incorporation as a Village would not adversely affect the rights of Village residents to purchase MTA parking permits at the Train Station or the amount of money charged for such permits.
Access to metered parking at certain sites would not be affected by incorporation. The disposition of the Pearl River parking meter fund is unresolved at this time.
Summary of Governance Issues Conclusions
|Issue||Were Pearl River to become a Village:||Commentary|
|Who would provide:|
|Police Protection||Village can provide or require town to provide||Town will charge for services rendered|
|Fire||Village must provide Fire Department services||Town does not provide Fire Department services|
|Ambulance Coverage||Village must provide coverages, could source from 3rd Party||Pearl River Alumni is a volunteer service|
|Garbage Pick-up/Recycling||Village responsible, could source from Town or 3rd Party||Town could refuse to supply these services|
|Public Works (paving / repair / sidewalks / snow/ leaves)||Village responsible, could source from Town or 3rd Party||Town could refuse to supply these services|
|Parks and Recreation||Village has full access to Town Parks||Recent and pending court decisions may change these conclusions|
|School||No change to access||Pearl River School District would not come under Village's jurisdiction|
|Library||No change to access||Pearl River Public Library would not come under Village's jurisdiction|
|Family and Group Child Care Centers||Determined by State Regulations||Permits issued by State|
|Mental Health Centers||New York State cites these facilities|
|Substance Abuse Centers||May ban from residential areas|
|Affordable Housing and Senior Housing||May not exclude, depends on area needs and housing mix|
|Adult Entertainment||May not exclude, can enact certain regulations||Must comply with State and Federal constitutional requirements|
|Assets and debts from Unincorporated Orangetown||Unlikely to obtain assets. Must pay proportionate share of debt||Negotiation based on assumption of "proportional share"|
|Annexation of Village Territory||Yes, although not easily||Requires consent of Village and Town|
|Will or could Pearl River's postal code change?||No||Pearl River could apply to receive its own zip code; no assurance|
In an effort to better understand the affect creating the Village of Pearl River would have on Real Estate values, Kevin Joyce of Joyce Realty in Pearl River NY and Donald Kennedy of Kennedy & Kennedy Real Estate in Piermont NY were consulted. Mr. Joyce is the President of Joyce Realty and a licensed Real Estate Broker in New York and New Jersey for 20+ years. Mr. Kennedy has been a licensed Real Estate Broker in both New York and New Jersey for 40+ years. With regards to real estate values after creating a village, Mr. Joyce and Mr. Kennedy each opine that incorporation would increase the value of homes in the village.
Mr. Joyce and Mr. Kennedy pointed out that market influences render an exact comparison of prior village incorporations and the one proposed for the Village of Pearl River almost impossible. For instance, appreciation and depreciation in the greater market area may not be properly reflected in any study. Currently, some market conditions like the construction of the Tappan Zee Bridge may improve the local community’s home values. Other market conditions like the strength of the Pearl River School District, which spans multiple jurisdictions, do not offer a direct influence on home values that is traceable to village incorporation, notwithstanding the fact that many home buyers weigh the strength of a school district when deciding when and where to buy a home. Reviewing sales activity before and after incorporation also provides an inexact comparison since the size of the lots sold may differ, the extent of improvements on the land might differ, and the condition of the homes might differ.
Due to his extensive knowledge of the Pearl River real estate market, Mr. Joyce is recognized as the preferred broker for the Pearl River School District and other local agencies when tackling their real property needs. His business has been involved in thousands of sales and purchases in and about the hamlet. His JoyceRealty.com website tracks local inventory listings, nearby sales, and even offers 12 month sales data on the area surrounding the listing, along with acquisition information on the parcel. His website is state-of-the-art in delivering sales data to consumers. His website even provides a "AVM" range to identify the possible range of value for a particular property. He is constantly monitoring the public information marketplace and uniquely in touch with Pearl River property values. He is the hamlet’s own local expert on real property sales. Mr. Joyce's expertise in this particular market was surpassed only by his late mother and co-founder of Joyce Realty, Mary Ellen Joyce, whom was long recognized as a Pearl River business and community leader.
Based on his experience in the market buying and selling numerous homes for 20+ years, Mr. Joyce opined that single family home values would increase in the event the hamlet of Pearl River were to become a Village. He stated that village incorporation, upon the vote of a majority of residents, would display a significant positive enthusiasm of residents by their taking ownership of their local community. Mr. Joyce stated the Pearl River is a strong, wealthy community. It is the largest hamlet in the State of New York and he believes that incorporation would not detract from property values. Mr. Joyce opined that incorporation would maintain the stability and value of real estate in the village whether such properties were residential properties, multi-family properties, senior housing and commercial real estate values. Mr. Joyce also noted that village incorporation would add another layer of government that may have higher costs than those currently existing.
Mr. Kennedy cited a study completed this past October in Hampton Bays, New York by members of the Hampton Bays Village Exploratory Committee, which was published in various outlets. That group concluded that property values would increase if the Village of Hampton Bays was eventually created. The Hampton Bays Village Exploratory Committee examined the property values in a dozen different villages in Suffolk County including the villages of Babylon, Greenport, Bellport, Patchogue, Quogue, Sayville, Westhampton Beach, East Hampton, North Hampton and Sagaponack, and then compared those figures with the changing values of homes sitting just outside those municipalities, and their examination also pulled information provided by real estate agents familiar with those areas. In every one of the villages, the value of the house inside the incorporated village was higher than the house across the street.
Mr. Kennedy recognized that the comparison to the Hamptons Bays’ home values does not withstand vigorous scrutiny. Notwithstanding that, based on his experience in the market buying and selling numerous homes for 40+ years, Mr. Kennedy joined Mr. Joyce and offered his firm opinion that estimates for property values would maintain and stabilize, if not increase, if the hamlet of Pearl River were to become a Village. His opinion was the same for residential properties, multi-family properties, senior housing, and commercial real estate values.
The Exploratory Committee has attempted to secure geographically relevant sales data material from which to form a more concrete opinion about the effect on home values after incorporation of other villages. Efforts have been made to solicit data from the New York State Office of Real Property Services, which is now under the Department of Taxation and Finance, as well as from the New York Conference of Mayors. Preliminary responses from ORPS personnel indicated that the Office of Tax Policy Analysis has not done any studies or analysis on this topic. ORPS personnel further stated that responsive sales documentation does not exist either and that a review of assessment values in areas that have previously incorporated provides no direct relation between those assessment values and actual market values. ORPS personnel has explained that there is no real bearing between an assessment drawn on a fractional basis (that is equalized in a town-wide assessment) and actual market values, especially in the absence of a current revaluation of assessment values. ORPS personnel noted that there have only been four village incorporations in the last 16 years (according to the Department of State website) so the sample size of villages that have gone through this process may not be sufficient to really demonstrate a trend.
The New York Conference of Mayors was contacted and they have been requested to review their records to determine if any prior relevant study is in their possession and capable of being shared with us. NYCOM has indicated that they are willing to discuss the issue with us and we look forward to their meaningful input, which, due to the timing of this Preliminary Report, has not yet been obtained.
The Exploratory Committee’s single most important question to resolve is how Pearl River taxes would change if the village were incorporated. There is no Economics Subcommittee to conduct interviews and an in-depth analysis of the services, service levels, and costs of services provided by the Town of Orangetown and nearby villages in order to answer this question. Instead, the Exploratory Committee has reached out to various industry professionals to build a budget for the Village of Pearl River, with the budget reflecting certain choices and assumptions that directly impact revenues, expenses, services and service levels. The Exploratory Committee does not foresee a village that provides all services, but rather one that provides justice court and administration, planning and zoning and enforcement, with all other services provided by contract by the Town.
In order to obtain an accurate budget, the Exploratory Committee reached out to the Center for Governmental Research, Inc. to ascertain if that entity could prepare a pro-forma budget based on various scenarios preferred by the Exploratory Committee and calculate the effect that incorporation under that scenario would have on taxes. The Center for Governmental Research, Inc. is a research and reporting entity that commonly reports on local government operations to improve efficiencies, consolidate operations and/or prepare for dissolution. The Center for Governmental Research, Inc. has advised us that it is capable of preparing a pro-forma budget and calculating the effect that incorporation would have upon taxpayers. We are attempting to raise the funds necessary to engage their services and we will supplement this Preliminary Report with any opinion obtained from the Center for Governmental Research, Inc.
Since the issue of additional taxation is such a great concern for the majority of residents of the hamlet, we solicited opinions from various governmental budget officers and received healthy contributions from certain retirees whose input has been invaluable. With their educated input, we created our own pro forma budget for the village that can be reviewed at the following link: http://villageofpearlriver.org/budget. We, in good faith, believe that the initial budget for the village would be $1.6 million, an amount equivalent to the 2016 Pearl River Fire District Budget. As a result of the Village assuming responsibility for land use functions the Town can reduce its land use budget and possibly property taxes. The potential reduction of Town property taxes is not included in our pro forma estimate of incremental property taxes due to village incorporation.
We have created a page to enable homeowners to insert their address to see what the incorporation of the village would do to a homeowner’s current taxes. The tax calculator can be used at the following link: http://villageofpearlriver.org/estimator If you put your address in the tax calculator, you will learn an estimate of the additional property tax in a range between 10% less than the $1.6 million budget and 10% more than the $1.6 million budget. This range reflects unknowns related to the affect on the Town budget, Village revenues from Village permit fees based on the number and types of land use applications and court fines that reduce property tax, and an extra $160k for unexpected charges and contingency reserve fund creation, among other things.
For example, the average home in the hamlet is worth $393,000 (see http://zillow.com/pearl-river-ny/home-values/) and currently has a Fire District Tax of approximately $180 per year. That average home would receive an additional tax of $180 per year in the event of incorporation. As an example, and using a random example, the home located at 65 Duhaime Road, Pearl River, New York sold for $410,000 on September 17, 2015. That particular home has a 2016 Fire District Tax of $184.04. Since the Fire District Budget is equivalent to the Village’s pro forma budget, the additional tax to be paid by the owners of 65 Duhaime Road, after village incorporation, should be approximately $184.04 per year, or 50 cents per day.
Our calculation certainly does not represent that full extent of taxes that the village would charge in its Village Tax because there are services that are currently reported elsewhere – like the Fire District tax – which would be part of the Village Tax and no longer part of the Town Tax. Taxes that move from the Town Tax bill onto the Village Tax bill do not represent an increase in taxations, albeit they may be reported differently in the future. When the services of CGR are retained, we hope to supply an answer that is more fully informed on the exact nature of the increase in Village Taxes and the offsetting decrease in Town Taxes.
For Pearl River to become a village, a group of residents would need to form a committee to follow the rules of incorporation laid out by the State. The rules are summarized in a publication issued by the New York Council of Mayors and Municipal Officials, Village Incorporation: The Five W’s, What, Why, Where, When, Who, and How.
A village cannot exceed 5 square miles unless it is co-terminus with a pre-existing taxing authority such as the Pearl River Fire District and it needs an initial population in excess of 500 people.
A petition with the signatures of 20% of the registered voters who reside within the proposed village territory or owners of more than 50% of the assessed valuation of the proposed village territory must be submitted to the Town Supervisor, along with a fee.
Within 20 days of the filing of the petition, the Town Supervisor must post and publish a notice of public hearing on the petition. After the hearing, the Town Supervisor has 10 days to make a determination as to the sufficiency of the petition in the form of a written decision. If the Town Supervisor decides that the petition does not comply with the law, any legal challenge to such position must be filed within 30 days of the date the Town Supervisor’s decision is filed. A "right to election" occurs either 30 days after the Town Supervisor decides the petition is legally sufficient or when a court files a decision declaring the petition legally sufficient.
An election must be held within 40 days after the right to election occurs. If the majority of voters approves the incorporation of the village, a certificate of election is filed and the village is officially incorporated.
The Town Clerk must prepare and deliver a report of incorporation to the secretary of state, comptroller, and board of real property services, as well as the Rockland County Clerk and Treasurer. The Town Clerk’s report must be sent between 10 and 15 days after the filing of the election certification and must include a map of the village boundaries, the certificate of election, a declaration of population based on the petition to incorporate, and a statement that the time to file a review of the election results has expired.
The Secretary of State will then issue a certificate of incorporation. Once that is filed in the Town Clerk’s Office, the Town Clerk has five days to designate an interim Village Clerk to run a special election for mayor and four trustees within 60 days.
For a period of 12 to 18 months, depending on when incorporation takes place, all services remain unchanged and continue to be provided by the Town of Orangetown and paid for by Village residents the same as before the Village was incorporated. During this time, the Village has full rights to organize, enact laws, appoint planning and zoning boards, buy and build infrastructure, and finance through tax anticipation notes. For two years, the Town’s laws are in force, unless the Village enacts laws superseding them.
Any district wholly within or co-terminus with the limits of the village (other than a school district) will cease to exist at the fiscal year succeeding the first day of June following the first day of January subsequent to incorporation. If the proposed boundaries of the village are co-terminus with the Pearl River Fire District, then the fire district would cease to exist and would instead become the fire department of the newly incorporate village.
As an important downside consideration is that a village may also be dissolved and return all government control to the Town. The dissolution process is initiated by the village board itself, or upon the submission of a proper petition to the board. The village board must produce a "dissolution plan" that settles specific mattes, including the village debts, employees and property, and identify the financial impact dissolution would have on village and non-village town residents. The plan is voted on by village voters only.
In 1852, in Piermont, New York, at a meeting called to further the cause of that hamlet’s incorporation, "several men of that hamlet suggested incorporation, in order, it was said, to keep the Irish population in subjection and to compel them to keep their houses and yards clean, ‘if possible.’" C. Nordstrom, Frontier Elements in a Hudson River Village: The Incorporation of Nyack (c. 1973). Today, the hamlet of Pearl River has a large Irish-American community within its midst and hosts under the auspices of the Ancient Order of Hibernians the second largest Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York State. This large Irish-American population also supports the largest youth Gaelic Athletic Football team in the United States of America. The Exploratory Committee notes that ancient discriminatory motivations will not sway this Irish- American stronghold in favor of incorporation. It will be the merits of incorporation that sway residents in favor of or against incorporation.
The Exploratory Committee believes that the village government under consideration for incorporation may preserve the many benefits that the hamlet’s residents currently receive from the Town, such as its parks and recreation privileges, and the successfully operated, independent Pearl River School District and its pooled services rendered by the BOCES program. The Exploratory Committee did not undertake any extensive analysis of becoming a city as the city cannot be situated in a town. A city is a separate and distinct legal entity. Thus, a city would not allow the village resident to preserve those aspects of life in the Town of Orangetown that they currently view with favor. The Exploratory Committee believes that village incorporation, rather than city incorporation, would best protect the quality and character of the community and best protect against adverse changes while also best maintaining the stability and value of local real estate. In their analysis, the Exploratory Committee did not intend to adversely affect any Town property situated outside the jurisdictional boundary line of the Village. There is no intent to pit property owner against property owner simply because one sits within the jurisdictional boundary line proposed and the other across the street. Rather the Exploratory Committee reviewed the evidence with a focus on whether incorporation would improve the situation for those within the jurisdictional boundary, without causing any adverse effect on those beyond the boundary line.
The Exploratory Committee sees its efforts as starting a process that should involve as many residents of the local community as are interested and willing to serve. The Exploratory Committee welcomes others, from all walks of life, of all political opinions, of all sexes, ages, races, ethnicities, disabilities, religions, nationalities, etc., to share their views and time and efforts to ensure that the Final Recommendations are made inclusive of the input and opinions from all sectors of local community life. All are welcome to join the discussion in determining Pearl River's future.
Finally, the Exploratory Committee wants to thank those behind-the-scenes people who took the time to gather the Committeemen’s reports and findings, collect the evidence from various third party sources, and marshal the information set forth in this Preliminary Report because their help and contribution was invaluable. The Exploratory Committee expresses a sincere thank you to Emily Orletti, Alexandra Mormile, Jacqueline Hennelly, and Cassidy Feerick for their enormous contributions. These wonderful women put together a first-class product that properly expresses the Exploratory Committee’s work, findings and recommendations.
Beyond them, putting the information into electronic format, delivering news blasts and notices, and coordinating the fundraising and other events of the Exploratory Committee could not have been achieved without the substantial help of Michael Mase and Chris Dunnigan, who each possess an extraordinary talent in analyzing and using electronic information and who, in tandem, helped us manage our various media information tools.
Robert R. Rahnefeld, a local surveyor, and Donald Lynch, a local title searcher and abstractor, volunteered time and services associated with creating a legal description of the proposed boundaries of the village.
The creation of a local census involved the innumerable hours and additional service hours of people like Dr. Kathleen Kelley, the subcommittee chair, Kathleen Dunleavy, Amy Wertheim Pritchett, and Prissy Mahoney Dondero, among others. We had the help of local students from the Pearl River High School assume the arduous tasks of data collection and inputting. The support of others in the community in helping our outreach includes almost too many folks to mention and we apologize for omitting anyone from this Report who helped us, although special thanks is expressed to Carmel Reilly and Heather Hurley. Each of these women have touched diverse segments of the community. We thank Kathleen Carroll and Cindy Cordero who kept us organized and moving forward, as well as the following individuals who sacrificed their time in the service of the Pearl River community:
James K. Riley
Amy Wertheim Pritchett
Kelley K Ann
John Jay Rowan
Linda Brennan OHagan
Erin Waples DiFabio
Alison McBride McGee
Mary Jo Maye Callanan
Toni Whitney Tynan
Katee McBride Fortescue
Laura McBride McLinskey
Kristen Hoffman Collins
Allison Tonner Tarsnane
Alice McGee Sciortino
Trisha McBride Lanese
Maeve Mc Phail
Alyson Fadini O'Hanlon
David F Colucci
Ann Marie Assumma
We even had local Pearl River High Schools teachers like Jerry Houston and Patricia Solicito offer to proctor a high school club to teach our local students on our government’s possibilities, including the path through petitioning, public hearing, and vote, which was independent of whether or not village incorporation occurs.
We have an extraordinary community. We found that the contributions of so many aided us in discussing and debating the merits and demerits of village incorporation. We hope that thoughtful consideration will be given by each person affected by the current conditions and the matters addressed herein. We look forward to a spirited public discussion over whether village incorporation is appropriate.
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