Court Denies a Village the Right to Sue a Town to Challenge Certain Zoning and Environmental Determinations Made by the Town Board and the Town’s Planning Board

Land Use

The Supreme Court, Rockland County, has ruled that the Village of Pomona did not have standing to commence an Article 78 proceeding to annul certain determinations made by the Town Board of the Town of Ramapo and the Town’s Planning Board.  See, The Village of Pomona v. The Town of Ramapo, 2010 WL 4591430 (N.Y. Sup.). 

The Court ruled that the Village lacked standing to assert its claim that a change of zone granted by the Town constituted spot zoning, contrary to the Town’s comprehensive plan, and that the Town Planning Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) when it issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) relating to the change of zone application.  At issue was a change of zone approval granted by the Town for a new residential development.  The Village claimed the new development of 497 units would create noise, air pollution and traffic impacts from more than 1,000 vehicles per day.  The Village also claimed that the project would have visual impacts and create problems with drainage and storm water run-off.  In rejecting the Village’s law suit, the Court pointed out that the Village’s right to challenge the Town’s actions must be determined on the same basis as the rules of standing that apply to all litigants, generally.  The Court relied on the well established rule in New York that, challenges to zoning determinations can only be made by aggrieved persons (See, Sun-Brite Carwash, Inc. v. The Board of Zoning and Appeals of the Town of North Hempstead, 69 N.Y.2d 406 (1987)), and that to demonstrate aggrievement warranting judicial review, the petitioner must show that it has sustained special damages from the actions complained of, different in kind and degree from the community generally, and that the injuries complained of fall within the zone of interest sought to be promoted by the statute.  In other words, the Court held that a municipality is limited to asserting rights that are its own as compared to the collective rights of individuals and residents of the municipality.  In this regard, the Court held that the Village failed to assert, with any specificity or detail, that the problems it complained of would have a direct impact on the Village, itself.

In dismissing the Village’s petition, the Court also ruled that General Municipal Law § 239‑nn does not, in and of itself, create a right of action for the Village to sue the Town.  The State Legislature adopted § 239‑nn in 2006.  This section requires a municipality, except a city having a population in excess of one million, to notify an adjacent municipality when a hearing is held by a municipal body relating to the issuance of a proposed Special Use Permit or the granting of a use variance on property that is within 500 feet of an adjacent municipality.  It also requires notice to adjacent municipalities of applications for site plan review and approval or subdivision review and approval on property that is within 500 feet of an adjacent municipality.  Notice must be given by mail or electronic transmission to the clerk of the adjacent municipality at least ten (10) days prior to the hearing.  Moreover, § 239‑nn provides that the adjacent municipality may appear and be heard at the public hearing on the proposed zoning actions.  In this case, the Village of Pomona did receive the required notice from the Town of Ramapo.  However, the Court held that § 239‑nn did not create a separate and distinct right of action that gave the Village standing to bring the Article 78 proceeding.

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