In this matter, the Appellate Division, Second Department heard a sister-appeal to the Youngewirth v. Ramapo Town Board appeal discussed yesterday. In both actions, nearby residents challenged the determinations of the Ramapo local government, but their causes of action were dismissed by the trial court in Rockland County. Specifically, in this cause of action, the trial court dismissed the petition as the petitioner lacked standing and the claims lacked merit or violated the statute of limitations. The Appellate Division modified the judgment of the trial dcurt, reinstating three of Shapiro’s causes of action, remanding the action to the trial court, and requiring the respondents to file answers to the petition.
In 2001, the Clarkstown Town Board decided to sell land it held in Ramapo to a private developer, respondent Scenic Development. In the first cause of action, the petitioner sought a declaratory judgment that this property, which was dedicated park land, was alienated for non-public-park purposes without the consent of the State Legislature. The Appellate Division found this cause of action was appropriately dismissed by the Supreme Court as being untimely.
Next, the court addressed the standing of the petitioner to challenge the local law passed by the Ramapo Town Board based upon SEQRA violations. This local law effected a zone change that permitted residential development on the subject property owned by Scenic – property from which the petitioner lived across the street. The Appellate Division reversed the Supreme Court’s ruling that the petitioner lacked standing, stating that the petitioner did not have to show actual injury to prove standing given the petitioner’s close proximity to the subject parcel. Further providing standing, the court found the alleged harm affecting the petitioner “fell within the zone of interests . . . protected by SEQRA.”
Furthermore, the Appellate Division found that it was improper for the trail 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.”
Lastly, the Appellate Division ruled the trial court erroneously dismissed the action on the basis that the petitioner did not voice her opinion at the public hearings. The Appellate Division found the petitioner sufficiently demonstrated that others advanced their arguments on the administrative record.
Shapiro v. Town of Ramapo, 98 A.D.3d 675 (2nd Dep’t, August 22, 2012)
The opinion can be accessed here.