By Nathan Mayberg
KIAMESHA LAKE July 26, 2005 A religious community located off of Gibber Road in Kiamesha Lake has filed a petition seeking to incorporate itself as its own village within the Town of Thompson.
The community whose roads include Feldman Circle, Gafen Lane, Silver Terrace and Yeshiva Road would call themselves the Village of Ateres.
The Town of Thompson Board is not so willing to let that happen, however.
In an emergency meeting yesterday, Supervisor Anthony Cellini said he is concerned about the negative impact such a move would have on the towns taxes and infrastructure. Cellini and the board indicated they do not want to see a community like Orange Countys controversial Kiryas Joel in their town.
The property totals 377.54 acres and includes a year-round yeshiva (religious school). According to the groups liaison, Chayim Fried, there are currently 53 families who live there year-round, along with between 200-300 yeshiva students.
The town may object to their ability to form a village, based on the possibility that not all of the residents are regular inhabitants. Michael Mednick, the Town of Thompson attorney, said that state law requires 500 regular inhabitants before a community can incorporate itself into a village.
Fried said his group wants to start its own village because building and developing in the town takes more time. It will be easier for us to build [as a village].
Cellini and Town Councilman William Rieber said the issue is about zoning. The community wants to be able to build at a higher density than the town code allows. Fried said he is looking to bring several hundred more people up from Rockland County into this community.
Cellini said the matter will likely go to litigation. First, there will be a hearing the town will select a date at its next board meeting on August 2. That date will likely be within two weeks after the meeting.
According to Mednicks interpretation of the law, Cellini would preside over the hearing and decide whether the community has filed its petition in the correct manner and is following state law. Town Councilman John Washington is expected to object to the groups procedure.
This will not be an easy task on both sides, said Cellini.
According to figures provided by Cellini, the taxable value of the community is over $8 million. They are assessed at approximately $9.3 million but receive over $400,000 in tax exemptions for religious-related activities. They pay approximately $269,400 in county, school and town taxes combined. If the village separated itself from the town, they could have their own assessor.
Fried said he would still like to use the towns services. But by becoming a village, their tax rate would be less. Those services include fire protection, sewer hookup, road maintenance and plowing.
Our concern is whether our infrastructure can handle what we have now, said Cellini.
Fried is confident that the law is on his communitys side.
If everything is according to the law, they have to let us [become a village], said Fried.