LYONS — Village residents will head to the polls Tuesday, March 18 to decide the fate of their government.
Polls are open from noon to 9 p.m. at the Lyons VFW for residents — village only — to vote on implementing a dissolution plan developed by a special committee and approved by the Village Board.
Under dissolution, village property owners could see a 38 percent decrease in their total tax rate, from $24.76 per thousand of assessed value to $15.28 per $1,000 of assessed value if the plan is followed to the letter.
Residents living outside the village, however, will potentially see a 43 percent increase in their total tax rate from $8.97 to $12.85 per thousand, and in some parts, town taxes could go up as much as 78 percent due to the many taxing entities. Town residents living outside of the village cannot vote on the plan.
Regardless of the voting outcome, Mayor Terry VanStean isn’t confident the plan would ever be put in place even if residents vote in favor of it. He has good reason. There’s no mandate in the law that requires the town to follow the plan, he said.
“The town is going to implement what it wants,” the mayor said. “The bottom line is that nobody has to implement the plan. There’s nothing binding in this vote (other than dissolving the village government). And I don’t believe there’s a town board in this state that would raise taxes 43 percent.”
The matter has been the cause of considerable controversy in the village, pitting neighbors against neighbors, VanStean said.
On the side of dissolution are the members of OneLyons, who have filed multiple lawsuits with the village since the process first began in 2012. The most recent matter brought before the Wayne County Supreme Court dealt with the validity of the petition that called for a second vote on dissolution. OneLyons filed an Article 78 against the village stating Village Clerk Denise Darcangelis’ findings were flawed when she certified the petition that contained over 600 names or 25 percent of registered voters in the village. OneLyons claimed the petition failed to conform to the standard requirements under general municipal law and listed more than 100 objections to the signatures appearing on the petition.
Based on the challenges OneLyons has made against the petition, VanStean said, the group’s initial petition to dissolve the village filed back in August 2012 would itself have failed because the village clerk used the same criteria to certify both petitions.
A decision by Judge John Nesbitt denied all the claims made by OneLyons, stating that the court was unable to find sufficient cause or law to support the claims made in the Article 78 filing.
OneLyons members failed to return phone calls for comment, but on the group’s website, they expressed their disappointment in Nesbitt’s decision.
“The group is distraught and conflicted about how the integrity of the process was compromised, and that the court deferred greatly to the village government,” the group stated. “However, the group also felt strongly in the principle of the ballot and ultimately decided to leave this to the people of Lyons.”
VanStean said he had an opportunity to talk briefly with Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently, and the first thing he told him was that his dissolution law is broken because the dissolution plan that the committee worked so hard on doesn’t have to be followed by the town.
VanStean said Cuomo’s answer was, “I know” and the governor assured him they are working on fixing the law at the state level.
If the dissolution plan is approved, the village will dissolve on Dec. 31, 2015; if a majority of residents vote no, the village remains as is; dissolution efforts cannot be initiated again for four years.
“The final decision should be with the community,” the mayor said. “Not with me, not with OneLyons, but with the community.”