Otis: Rye Town dissolution could be simplified

From Hometown News:

The possible dissolution of Rye Town remains up in the air as Village of Mamaroneck officials consider whether or not to annex the portion of the town that also lies within the village’s borders, but an idea from state Assemblyman Steve Otis may make the process of eliminating a layer of municipal government significantly simpler.

Rye Town consists of the villages of Port Chester and Rye Brook as well as the Rye Neck section of the Village of Mamaroneck. There is no section of Rye Town that isn’t wholly incorporated into another municipality, unlike the Town of Mamaroneck which contains the villages of Larchmont and Mamaroneck as well as an unincorporated area.

Since early 2013, Republican Rye Town Supervisor Joe Carvin, the Board of Trustees in the Village of Mamaroneck, and state officials Sen. George Latimer and Otis, both Democrats, have discussed whether or not to dissolve the town, leaving Port Chester and Rye Brook to become coterminous town-villages.

A coterminous town/village is a municipality that functions as both. Currently, Harrison, Mount Kisco and Scarsdale are the only coterminous town/villages in Westchester County.

Port Chester and Rye Brook have always been the big, easy pieces in any discussion surrounding the dissolving of the Town of Rye. The big problem has always been little Rye Neck.

Up until recently, the Rye Neck option that seemed to be gaining the most traction was a “paper town” scenario—first put forth by Democratic Village of Mamaroneck Trustee Leon Potok—which would shrink the Town of Rye to wrap around Rye Neck and contract out for its services, as it currently does, while the other involved municipalities, which would go coterminous, would no longer have to pay Rye Town taxes.

The paper town scenario was seen as a necessity because, according to the state’s constitution, New York’s villages must exist within its towns.

That was then.

Now, according to Otis’ new interpretation of state law, the need to have a “paper town” is actually not a requirement as previously believed. He said, according to the way he now reads the law, the municipalities involved can proceed with the dissolution of Rye Town without making Port Chester and Rye Brook coterminous. Under this new scenario, the Village of Mamaroneck would annex Rye Neck and the Town of Rye would cease to exist, fulfilling the original goal of Carvin’s steering committee, a group formed for the purpose of determining whether dissolving the town would prove cost-effective.

“With dissolving the Town of Rye, the goal is to get rid of an unnecessary layer of local government, which is a good thing and saves the taxpayers money,” Otis said.

Rye Town currently functions as an umbrella government and taxing authority for the villages of Port Chester, Rye Brook and the Rye Neck section of the Village of Mamaroneck while providing services such as a local court and assessment office.

Otis said Latimer and he are ready to draft state legislation on the matter pending the “ironing out” of issues between some of the municipalities involved, ranging from a sharing of court services between Port Chester and Rye Brook, to how taxes would be structured and collected from Rye Neck by the Village of Mamaroneck.

“Legislation can’t be drafted until all the local entities come to a meeting of minds regarding how certain things will operate,” Otis said. “A number of issues need to be worked out; in how things need to be structured, or how existing services or parks are going to be managed in the new format.”

Potok added to the assemblyman’s sentiments.

He said the other municipalities involved were waiting for the Village of Mamaroneck’s decision on whether or not to support dissolving the Town of Rye and, in turn, annexing Rye Neck.

“Right now, just as cities are not part of a town, we’re looking to create a precedent which can be simply accomplished through legislation that a village does not have to be part of a town,” Potok said. “It requires appropriate crafting, but we’re told that it’s doable.”

If the Village of Mamaroneck decides to proceed, Otis and Latimer will draft legislation setting up the apparatus to dissolve Rye Town and make Rye Neck a part of the village. Once that legislation is approved at the state level, a public referendum will be held in each involved municipality on the issue.

Carvin and Village of Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rose-nblum could not be reached as of press time.