By ASHLEY HELMS
Though discussions revolving around the possibility of dissolving the Town of Rye have been ongoing, the issue may come before the public in the near future. If Gov. Andrew Cuomo gives his approval, affected voters will be able to cast their support, or opposition, to the dissolution as early as the November 2014 election.
Assemblyman Steve Otis, a Rye Democrat, said that a steering committee examining potential Rye Town dissolution decided to delay going to the state legislature for approval of a public referendum, sighting the need for more details to be hashed out.
“They didn’t get it done in time quickly enough for the legislative session,” Otis said. “It’ll be better in 2014 because of the depth of the issues.”
The Town of Rye, which does not provide many of the municipal services that other communities do, is wholly comprised of the villages of Port Chester, Rye Brook and the Rye Neck section of the Village of Mamaroneck, which is within the Town of Mamaroneck. Rye Neck exists as part of one town and an unofficial part of another, which will be the crux of the situation if Rye Town dissolves.
The overall goal of dissolving Rye Town is to reduce the number of municipalities and layers of government, ultimately bringing down taxes on the remaining residents.
In 2010, Rye Town Supervisor Joseph Carvin, a Republican, spearheaded an effort to obtain a $60,000 Local Government Efficiency grant from New York State, which was used to fund a study examining if dissolving Rye Town would be possible and how it could be done.
The study, by the Center for Government Relations, a nonprofit consulting company, provided the following options for the remaining towns and villages if Rye Town’s dissolution was to go forward:
The Village of Port Chester could become either a coterminous town-village or an incorporated city, both using the boundaries of the village. The Village of Rye Brook would then also become a coterminous town-villages.
Or the Village of Rye Brook could become a coterminous town-villages using the borders of the village with Port Chester doing the same.
Another scenario, endorsed by steering committee member and Village of Mamaroneck Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, would see the Village of Mamaroneck absorb Rye Neck and become a coterminous town-village, succeeding from the Town of Mamaroneck.
A coterminous town-village is a municipality that functions as both a town and a village. Home Rule legislation grants a municipality the freedom to establish its own government without a charter from the state. Harrison, Mount Kisco and Scarsdale are the only coterminous town-villages in the county at present.
Another option not represented in the study, but first publicly advanced by Village of Mamaroneck Trustee Leon Potok, a Democrat, and conceived with Otis, would see Port Chester and Rye Brook become coterminous town-villages and Rye Neck remaining as a much smaller Town of Rye Neck.
This scenario, nicknamed the “paper town solution,” may prove unlikely due to the fact that Rye Neck does not provide most of its own services and would have to contract out with another municipality to gain them. All Rye Neck services would be delivered through other entities. Rye Neck would use its own set of laws, but wouldn’t need its own police force or building department.
The Town of Rye provides very little services, except for a court system, which is entirely for Rye Brook, and assessment. The umbrella government serves as a taxing authority for the communities within its municipal boundaries.
“[The potential Town of Rye Neck] would need to do assessment and tax collection…it would exist largely as a book keeping and accounting entity,” Potok said.
Rosenblum said Potok and Otis’ idea is unworkable and the only way it would pan out is if an agreement was set up in which the Village of Mamaroneck would do work for Rye Neck.
“I don’t trust government to do it fast or equitable,” Rosenblum said. “The coterminous town-village is the only way.”
To have Rye Neck be an independent town is unrealistic, the mayor said; the Village of Mamaroneck is the strongest entity, but there are people who don’t want the dissolution at all. Rosenblum said all of the opinions of the municipal leaders involved need to be taken into account before a decision can be made.
“If any one of them doesn’t want it, it’s a moot issue,” he said.
Tangentially involved is the possible future of the Village of Larchmont, though its involvement isn’t as much of a centerpiece as some of the aforementioned municipalities.
Mayor Anne McAndrews, a Democrat, formed a committee to look into Larchmont’s options if Rye Town dissolves. McAndrews said the committee, headed by Bill Dentzer and former Larchmont Mayor Josh Mandell, hasn’t made an announcement yet as to what suggestions they have come up with.
“They were in a holding pattern waiting for decisions to be made by Rye Town and what they intend to do,” McAndrews said.
The issue is still on the table and up for debate and discourse before approval from the state is sought.
Supervisor Carvin could not be reached for comment as of press time.