East Rochester’s unique identity holds it together

Denise M. Champagne

When it comes to identity, there’s nothing mistaken about East Rochester’s.

While the village has been in the news lately for its divisiveness, its unique municipal status also holds it together.

East Rochester is one of five coterminous town-villages in the state. That means its boundaries are identical. It’s a town and village in one, unlike separate villages within a town that have the same name, such as the villages and towns of Pittsford or Webster.

“It’s definitely part of East Rochester’s identity now and the fact that we are our own place,” said Mayor Jason Koon. “We’re not associated with any other town. We are ourselves. I think it’s something the people in the village really like. “

It can be confusing, particularly to those unfamiliar with the dynamics, especially since most people ihave never heard of the term “coterminous.”

So Koon didn’t try to explain last week why a village mayor was at the Association of Towns of the State of New York State meeting in Rochester. He, along with other Village Board members, also represented the village at a weekend gathering of village officials in Perinton, one of the towns East Rochester broke away from 27 years ago this month. The other was Pittsford. The process of creating a cotermimous town-village took a couple of years, but became effective in January 1981.

Peter Baynes, executive director of the New York Conference of Mayors, said in the 22 years he has been with the association, quite a number of villages have looked into becoming coterminous.

He said the main reason is that village residents, as part of a town, pay town taxes for services they may not receive. Baynes said many villages are frustrated with the current inequitable state laws, but not many have been successful establishing their own joint village/towns because it requires the approval of the higher levels of town and county government, approvals which have not been forthcoming. Baynes said towns are reluctant to pick up additional expenses for services villages may provide such as police and fire.

In East Rochester’s case, Village Clerk Ray Parrotta said residents were paying taxes to two towns, often for services they weren’t receiving. Besides saving money, he said residents wanted their own identity.

So why not just be one or the other? It can’t.

Murray Jaros, special counsel to the state Association of Towns, said a village has to be part of a town. He said when East Rochester wanted to have a greater separation, the towns of Perinton and Pittsford accommodated. The two towns agreed in 1979 to be split so the portions that the village of East Rochester was in could become the independent town of East Rochester.

Jaros said upon receiving the designation, coterminous communities decide whether they want to operate principally as a village or a town. East Rochester operates mainly as a village, although it voted in 1983 to move its elections from March, when most villages have them, to November when counties and towns hold theirs.

That added to the confusion in December, when Koon was sworn in a month earlier than his predecessors who had incorrectly waited until January. Under village law, officers can be sworn in the first day of the following month instead of waiting until Jan. 1. That follows with March village elections in which the oaths of office are given in early April.

Baynes said East Rochester was the last municipality to go coterminous. It’s also the only one in western New York. There is one, Green Island, in Albany County and the rest are in Westchester County: Mount Kisco, Harrison and Scarsdale. Baynes also sent along some general information saying that the duties and responsibilities of both the town and village are carried out by one group of officers and employees. It’s available on the state Department of State’s Web site at:

Denise M. Champagne can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 352, or at