Preserving Orangetown for Our Children

By Teresa Kenny

Over the past decade, the two biggest issues in Rockland County have been sky-high property taxes — we have the second highest property taxes in the nation — and the out-of-control overdevelopment in Ramapo, that has had a devastating impact on our suburban communities, and threatens to overwhelm neighboring towns such as Orangetown and Clarkstown, as it has the villages within the town of Ramapo, most recently in Chestnut Ridge. 

As a real estate attorney and First Deputy Town Attorney in Orangetown for the last twenty-three years, I have seen firsthand the challenges we face and worked with the Town Board to implement common sense strategies to protect taxpayers, stop overdevelopment, and preserve our quality of life in Orangetown.

But with the continued efforts of Ramapo developers to change the character of our suburban communities in Rockland, (see the proposed Pascack Ridge Development), more must be done to strengthen and protect our zoning laws and enforce our town code.

First and foremost, we must ensure that single-family residential neighborhoods stay that way, and that homeowners are held responsible for maintaining their properties as required under the town code. We have cracked down, and we must continue to crack down, to prevent illegal home conversions. Strong zoning laws and code enforcement are critical towards ensuring just this.

Second, we must preserve the character of our community, while adapting to the 21st century – which means we need a growing economy, with prosperous businesses – new and existing – and vibrant downtown business districts, to help produce clean tax ratables and reduce the property tax burden on town residents. 

Further to the point, we must continue to find ways to commercially develop RPC, fill the IRG property, and improve the Route 303 corridor. These new businesses should be environmentally friendly, have minimal burden on our traffic and infrastructure, and provide clean tax ratables to our schools and municipalities.

If we do not attract businesses and improve our downtowns, the property tax burden on residents will become unsustainable. 

Third, we must make it easier for our children to remain in Orangetown rather than losing them to nearby areas because they cannot afford to stay here, and for our seniors, living on a fixed income, to be able to afford to stay near their families and receive the help and support they deserve in retirement. 

Unfortunately, too many of our children and seniors have been forced to move out of Rockland County and New York State because of the high tax burden, high cost of living, and difficult economic prospects.

In order to accomplish these things, I have supported the Town Board’s judicious use of our PAC (Planned Adult Community) zone to allow seniors to stay in our town and raise our tax base, and we must consider some limited, market rate “Millennial Housing” in and around our downtown business districts for our young residents to move to until they are ready to buy a single-family home in the town. This will help keep our families together, and ensure a ready supply of homebuyers for our seniors and other residents looking to sell.

Finally, we must evaluate establishing a land trust to purchase “under threat” properties to avoid fire sales and market the properties to proper buyers or repurpose for use by town residents.

To preserve Orangetown, we must work closely with our River Villages, our County government, and community stakeholders throughout the town to ensure that Orangetown continues to focus on ways to keep the suburban character of our community and fight against the overdevelopment that has burdened our neighboring towns.

Without a strong plan in place, property taxes will skyrocket and our home values will decline, traffic will increase, and our infrastructure will be overburdened, and governmental resources will be depleted. We cannot allow it to happen.

Teresa Kenny, the Republican, Conservative, SAM and Libertarian Party candidate for Orangetown Supervisor, is a local real estate attorney and First Deputy Town Attorney.