In ongoing litigation in the Town of Ramapo involving a rezoning, the Appellate Division, Second Department heard two appeals. In both actions, nearby residents challenged the determinations of the Ramapo town board, but their causes of action were dismissed by the trial court on standing grounds. The Appellate Division, Second Department modified the order and judgment, reinstating five causes of action, remanding the proceeding back to Supreme Court, and requiring the respondents to file an answer.
The petitioner challenged the Ramapo Town Board’s actions concerning the prospective development of property owned by respondent Scenic Development. In 2008, Scenic had filed an application with the Board seeking amendments to the zoning code and the Comprehensive Plan. In 2010, the Board enacted a local law that changed the local zoning code to permit residential development on Scenic’s property. Soon thereafter, the petitioner challenged the local law. The petitioner lives across the street from the subject property.
The respondents moved to dismiss, asserting the petitioner lacked standing to challenge the local law. The Supreme Court granted this motion finding the petitioner did not have standing to institute the spot zoning claim, nor to challenge the Town Law § 262 and SEQRA violations. The Appellate Division reversed, stating the petitioner did not have to show actual injury to prove standing given the petitioner’s close proximity to the subject parcel. Additionally, the court found the injuries alleged by the petitioner where “within the zone of interests to be protected by SEQRA and the Town’s zoning laws,” further providing standing. Addressing the petitioner’s second cause of action, an alleged violation of Municipal Home Rule Law § 20, the court found the petitioner lacked standing as she failed to demonstrate that she was injured by the local law without approval by referendum, as is required.
Furthermore, the Appellate Division held that the Supreme Court erroneously dismissed the action on the basis that the petitioner did not voice her opinion at the public hearings. The petitioner claimed that although she was absent at the hearings, her objections were adequately voiced at the hearing by others or where made in written comments submitted to the Board. Since the respondents failed to introduce the record of the local proceedings, the court determined the trial court was not able to resolve this issue in the respondent’s favor.
Lastly, the Appellate Division found that it was improper for the trial court to dismiss the petitioner’s SEQRA claims without first receiving the answer to the complaint. The Appellate Division determined an answer was required, because record did not establish that “the facts are so fully presented in the papers of the respective parties that it is clear that no dispute as to the facts exists and no prejudice will result from the failure to require an answer”
Youngewirth v. Ramapo Town Board, 98 A.D.3d 678 (2nd Dep’t, Aug. 22, 2012),
The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_06029.htm