By: Patricio Robayo
On August 3 near Kiamesha Lake, NY residents gathered at the Shul Gibbers on 169 Barnes Blvd for a public hearing addressing the creation of a new village within the Town of Thompson – the Village of Ateres.
The joint hearing, led by Thompson Town Supervisor William Rieber Jr. and Fallsburg Supervisor Katherine Rappaport, had a clear focus: determining the legal sufficiency of the petition to create a new village and addressing any objections raised against it.
During the meeting, Supervisor Rieber repeatedly emphasized that the purpose of this public hearing was not to debate the pros and cons of incorporating the new village.
According to the petition, the population satisfies the area requirements set forth by New York Village Law, ensuring that it does not exceed five square miles.
The petition further states that there are 308 qualified voters residing in the Town of Thompson and 14 in the Town of Fallsburg, culminating in a total of 322 eligible voters within the Incorporation Territory. This number fulfills the 20 percent requirement, which is mandated by law to incorporate a village.
When it comes to incorporating a village, New York Law says that a public hearing must be held to address any objections to the legal sufficiency of the petition.
Rieber addressed a full room of residents and media gathered to discuss the new village, aiming to hear any objections and provide more information. During the discussion, Rieber also brought up a possible objection to the petitions.
“If it is alleged that the petitioners submitted on the basis of the person signing of such petition…”
Several residents who live within the proposed village spoke out against the petition, like Sandra Johnson-Fields who lives in Kiamesha Lake said “I have concerns after reviewing the petition. I noticed several discrepancies, like missing signatures and incomplete addresses, which I believe could invalidate the petition.”
A similar reaction came from Johnnie Reeves, also a resident of Thompson: “I, too, noticed missing signatures on the petition, and it raises questions about its validity.”
Radio Catskill reviewed the petition available on the Town of Thompson’s website found three signatures lacking either first or last names, which, under New York State Law § 2-202, should have been included.
Apart from the signature issues, some residents also raised concerns about the vagueness of the proposed village’s boundary map.
After hearing various opinions and objections, the meeting was adjourned by Supervisors Rieber and Rappaport. They plan to reconvene on August 22 at 5 p.m. to close the joint public hearing.
During this period, residents are encouraged to submit their specific objections to the town clerk of either Fallsburg or Thompson, providing their full names and signatures.
Once the meeting is closed on August 22, what happens? Is the new village created?
Well, according to Michael Mednick, the Town Attorney for the Town of Thomspon, once the hearing is officially closed, the Supervisors have ten days to determine the validity of the petition. Following this decision, they have an additional five days to file the minutes of the hearing, the petition, all objections, and their decisions with the respective Town Clerks.
Furthermore, If both supervisors agree that the petition is valid, the matter will be put on hold for 30 days, during which any objectors can bring an Article 78 proceeding to challenge the decision in Sullivan County Supreme Court.
On the other hand, if the supervisors disagree or decide against the petition, a 30-day stay will also be imposed, allowing the petitioners to challenge the denial through an Article 78 proceeding.
After the 30-day period, if no Article 78 proceeding is initiated, the supervisor’s decision becomes final. If the decision results in a denial and no challenge is brought forth, the matter comes to a close.
However, if the decision is approved and no challenge is made, a referendum is scheduled within 40 days for the inhabitants of the proposed village to vote on the proposition.
Should there be a challenge, the ultimate outcome depends on the court’s determination. If the court upholds the denial of the petition, the matter concludes; otherwise, a referendum will follow.
The Joint Public Hearing for the Village of Ateres petition will be on August 22 at 5 p.m. at Khal Toras Chaim Viznitz Shul Gibbers on 169 Barnes Blvd, near Kiamesha Lake.