The EIC has been asked if the unincorporated community of Edgemont could secure zoning and planning authority without fully incorporating into a village. Town Supervisor Paul Feiner has suggested that, rather than incorporate, Edgemont could petition for a change in state law that would authorize residents of certain neighborhoods (e.g. school districts) to secure such powers while stopping short of fully incorporating.

We do not believe this "village-lite" approach is legally possible. In New York, town control over zoning and land use within its borders is governed by New York state laws. The state legislature delegated legislative and administrative control over land use to incorporated villages within towns, and to towns themselves for unincorporated areas. Villages and towns are legal entities which can sue and be sued and thus be held accountable legally for the consequences of their decisions. The theory is that control over land use is an exercise of police power (to regulate public health, safety and welfare) and that such delegation of authority by the state is limited to duly elected legislative bodies. 

Further, we have not found any example of a "zoning and planning special improvement district" in any town in New York. For Greenburgh to even try to get such an amendment enacted, it would have to make a "home rule" request to the state legislature in Albany, and demonstrate to state officials that such a request to cede legal control over an unincorporated area of a town to unelected representatives of an unincorporated segment of that town only to make legally binding land use decisions, and to do so without giving other unincorporated area segments equal treatment, is even constitutionally permissible. 

There are also practical challenges to Mr. Feiner's concept including securing funding for operating expenses and liabilities (i.e. if the local zoning and planning organization would have taxation powers like most New York special districts, or if it would function like a non-governmental civic organization). 

As noted by the State Comptroller, obtaining zoning powers by incorporating under current NY Village Law remains a strong motivator for unincorporated hamlet residents to consider villagization. Given state laws that allow for municipal cooperation coupled with local initiatives that encourage shared services, newly incorporated villages may secure their desired autonomy without duplicating services and infrastructure.