An Offer of Dedication Made as Part of a Subdivision Approval Remains an Offer Unless Expressly Rejected by a Municipality

Land Use

Subdivision approvals granted by Planning Boards almost always carry with them the requirement that the subdivider offer to dedicate certain areas to the municipality for public purposes.  Typical dedication requirements involve roadways, conservation areas, land for recreational purposes and drainage facilities.  The offers of dedication are sometimes made and memorialized in declarations and other documents filed in the clerk’s office and sometimes are made in the form of notations on the subdivision map that is signed by the municipal officials and then filed in the clerk’s office.

 

A recent case, Underhill Avenue Corp. v. Village of Croton-On-Hudson, decided by the Appellate Division, Second Department on March 15, 2011, N.Y.Slip Op. 1998, illustrates the point that offers of dedication remain offers unless and until expressly rejected by a municipality.  In the Underhill case, in 1954, the Planning Board of the Village approved a development subject to certain conditions, including an offer of dedication of a certain lot shown on the map as a playground area.  The final plat for the subdivision filed in the Westchester County Clerk’s office, noted the offer to dedicate this lot with the words “playground area” noted on the lot.  The Village did not formally accept the offer of dedication.  In 2007, the plaintiff entered into a contract to purchase the lot, contingent upon obtaining a building permit for the construction of a single-family home on the lot.  The Village rejected the building permit application and plaintiff commenced the action against the Village, seeking a declaration that the lot was not subject to any condition that it remain a “playground area.”  The Supreme Court rejected plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, ruling that the plaintiff was not entitled to removal of the lot’s designation as a “playground area,” unless the Village and other interested parties agreed to revoke the offer of dedication.

 

The Appellate Division affirmed the Supreme Court’s ruling.  The Appellate Court pointed out that the offer of dedication was never revoked by all interested parties.  The Court explained that a municipality may reject an offer of dedication, but in this case, the Village did not do so.  Moreover, the Court pointed out that an offer of dedication cannot be implicitly rejected and that the lapse of time does not extinguish an offer of dedication which may be accepted at any time prior to a valid and express revocation.  Further, the Court held that a failure to accept an offer of dedication does not result in a rejection of that offer.  An open offer of dedication noted on a subdivision plat remains enforceable against subsequent purchasers unless and until actually revoked.

 

The rule of this case is important to owners and developers.  Very careful attention is required to open offers of dedication when contemplating the purchase of lots on a filed map.  Since an offer of dedication is firm and binding unless expressly revoked, due diligence requires that a land owner or developer initiate proceedings with the municipality to obtain express consent to revoke an offer before entering into a contract to acquire undeveloped land on a filed map.

 

Leave a Reply