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Norwood reorganization from village into town would make history

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NORWOOD — Turning the village of Norwood into a town would be more complicated than just changing a greeting on the welcome sign, state officials warned Tuesday.

Earlier this week, Mayor James H. McFaddin said he and village leaders may want to transform Norwood into its own town, a move that hinges on the Potsdam dissolution vote this November.

The village would become the first municipality in the state’s history to alter existing town lines and successfully establish a separate township, state officials said.

“Technically speaking you can either move around a boundary or divide a town to create a new stand-alone town,” Darrin Derosia, associate council at the New York Department of State, said. “Never in the 200 years plus of our state has a new stand-alone town been created that way but I suppose it could happen.”

Citing a desire to “control our own destiny,” Mr. McFaddin said the village has begun to explore the possibility of creating a town due to concerns over perceived decrease in service and rising tax rates in the village. Should Potsdam dissolve, Norwood taxpayers could see their property tax rates increase by more than $500 per year, officials estimated.

The mayor’s ambitious plan to turn Norwood into a town would involve the entirety of the 13668 ZIP code, more than tripling Norwood’s population and expanding its bounds two to three miles beyond its current border. That would mean taking land currently in the boundaries of the towns of Potsdam and Norfolk, and combining them to make the town of Norwood.

A petition with signatures from 5 percent of Potsdam and Norfolk voters in the most recent governor election would be needed to kick start the plan. Voters in Potsdam and Norfolk would then have to give their OK in a special vote. Finally, county legislators would have to approve the move.

“This would be super-complicated,” Mr. Derosia said. “I’ve never really contemplated how you would pull that off.”

Just five towns have been created in New York state since 1919, all of which have been created through a process known as coterminous town-villages. Coterminous town-villages are a territory where both a town and a village have the exact same boundary and function as single entity.

The town/village of Green Island in Albany County was the most recent municipality to undertake this task, completing its transformation in 1976.

While the same principles used in creating a coterminous town/village would be applied to the transformation of Norwood, Mr. McFaddin has said he had no desire to pursue a coterminous town/village in Norwood.

Charles M. Zettek, the man who helped guide Potsdam’s dissolution study team, said the town of Potsdam could throw the dissolution committee’s projected tax rates out the window should Norwood leave town boundaries.

“It never dawned on me to think of what would happen if the village of Norwood wasn’t there anymore,” Mr. Zettek said. “I’m not sure how but it would definitely be a change for overall tax rate calculations.”

But creating a town isn’t the only plan Norwood is exploring. The village is also exploring separating from the town of Potsdam completely, placing the entire village in Norfolk town boundaries, a plan Norfolk Town Supervisor Charles Pernice said he would be willing to consider.

“I’m open to any way we can help Norwood,” Mr. Pernice said. “These areas are so closely attached as it is. It’s a very blended community already.”

Other options include simply dissolving the village of Norwood or eliminating some of the services that would be provided by the town of Potsdam, such as the village police force, in an effort to lower tax rates.

Potsdam Town Supervisor Marie C. Regan said she understands Mr. McFaddin’s concerns.

“It’s his job to do whatever is best for the village of Norwood,” Ms. Regan said. “I applaud him for looking at every option.”

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