KIRYAS JOEL, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- The New York state environmental commissioner on Wednesday chose the Orange County Hasidic Jewish village of Kiryas Joel to lead the review of its request to annex roughly 500 acres of adjacent land.
Commissioner Joe Martens' decision means Kiryas Joel will oversee the state-mandated environmental impact review on a politically controversial request to annex land from Monroe, about 50 miles north of New York City.
Leaders of the densely settled enclave of ultra-Orthodox Satmar Hasidic Jews say the village of 22,000 is bursting at the seams and needs more land to accommodate its quickly growing population.
Local opponents of the annexation request from out-of-village Satmar said they fear more congestion in the suburban area. They opposed Kiryas Joel's request for lead agency status in the State Environmental Quality Review process, claiming the review would not be thorough or fair.
``This 507 acres, mostly rural landscape, if annexed, will become a high density, urban development which is in stark contrast to the neighboring communities who enjoy rural zoning and scenic ridge lines,'' according to a statement from United Monroe chairwoman Emily Convers, who promised to fight the annexation.
Martens said the long-awaited decision was made after a thorough review.
There was no immediate comment from village officials.
Kiryas Joel is named for Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum, the founder of the Hasidic sect, who bought the land for the municipality in 1977. The village is known for having the youngest median age of any municipality in the United States, at 13.2 years old.
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