GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The third time was the charm for the folks hoping to turn a part of Greenburgh into a bona fide village.
Jeff Sherwin and John Lewis, both members of the Edgemont Incorporation Committee (EIC), had twice tried to file a 1,400-signature petition with the town attorney’s office, but were turned away because the town took the stand that, legally, the paperwork had to be put directly into the hands of Supervisor Paul Feiner.
Feiner had been out of town last week.
The EIC, for its part, argued that the petition could have been filed with either the town clerk, or the town attorney, Timothy Lewis.
Lewis could not be reached for comment Monday.
At any rate, Sherwin said the petition was filed Monday, the filing fee paid, and a receipt received by his group.
Sherwin said he and Feiner spoke briefly "about being able to work together" and then shook hands.
What will follow, Sherwin said, are hearings on the legitimacy of the petition and not, he emphasized, the “pros and cons,” or the merits, of incorporation. That is a matter for meetings down the road, he explained.
However, Feiner has already raised the issue of the potential impact of a seventh village in the unincorporated areas of the town, such as Hartsdale and Fairview.
The Hartsdale group has set an “informational” meeting for this Wednesday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Highview School, 200 Central Ave.
Sherwin said he plans to attend, just to listen in.
In an email to residents, Feiner said that, as supervisor, he is tasked with determining whether there are sufficient signatures on the EIC’s petition to warrant a referendum.
If the answer is "yes," Feiner said, a vote by Edgemont residents will likely be held in June.
Sherwin said he thought the supervisor was already telegraphing his position on incorporation by bringing up potential financial impacts in his email to residents.
In the email, Feiner said the unincorporated bits of Greenburgh “will lose significant revenue.” He referenced a figure of more than $17 million that the Hartsdale Neighbors Association has put forth.
“The average resident of Edgemont pays 16 percent of their total tax bill to the town of Greenburgh for municipal services. The rest of their tax bill goes to the school district, county and fire district,” Feiner wrote.
Sherwin and other EIC members have met with the Hartsdale folks and understand that they’re worried about the impact on taxes.
While he understands that fear, Sherwin said there are a number of options Edgemont could pursue as a village, some of which could actually save the town money.
Feiner said he planned to form a task force made up of residents in the unincorporated parts of Greenburgh that will work with the town’s department heads to review options in case Edgemont incorporates.
“These options could include possible service cuts,” the supervisor wrote, adding that it’s possible that “Edgemont may wish to contract for town services.”
Sherwin said he wondered why Feiner had written that the task force would recommend a “fair pricing formula (cost + administrative fee.)
The focus of the initial public hearings is, Sherwin reiterated, not the merits of incorporation, but the petition’s legitimacy.
"We're looking forward to discussing the merits of incorporation in the appropriate forum," Sherwin said.
Greenburgh makes zoning and planning decisions that affect Edgemont’s quality of life, school enrollment, taxes, and property values, the EIC website states.
The EIC contends that Edgemont, aka Greenville, funds a “heavy and growing share” of the town’s “rapidly increasing, inefficient, and often duplicative budget.”
The town tax rate, the EIC said, has more than doubled since 2002, and debt is up 44 percent since 2007.
Since Edgemont represents only 8 percent of the town’s voters, it has “limited political influence.”
“The Greenburgh Town Board includes no Edgemont representatives, and its long-term interests are often not aligned with Edgemont’s,” the EIC said.
The move toward incorporation has taken on more urgency of late, the EIC said, because of recent development projects that, it claims, were “mishandled by Greenburgh, resulting in litigation.”
And reassessment has caused Edgemont’s share of town taxes to increase to 26 percent from 24 percent, for, the EIC said, “the same level of services.”
The Hartsdale Neighbors Association’s goal for the meeting Wednesday is simply to give residents the tools they need to make informed choices, said HNA member Dan Weinfeld.
According to the group’s website, hartsdaleneighbors.org, property taxes could increase “significantly” and “for little or no improvement in town and school services.”
Edgemont accounts for about 26 percent of the unincorporated area’s budget, the HNA said. If it becomes a village, there will be “a large budget hole to fill,” the group argues.
Making a presentation about the potential financial impact of Edgemont’s becoming a village will be Luis Polit, who has served on the Greenburgh Citizens Budget Oversight Commission.
There will also be a question and answer period, Weinfeld said.
Feiner is expected to attend the meeting, he added.