Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 20, 2012

NY Appellate Court Revises Dispute Between N.Y. Municipalities After Motion to Dismiss Reversed with Respect to Applicability of Subdivision Review

The Village of Woodbury, New York, instituted this declaratory judgment action to declare null and void a land transaction between defendant Branch and defendant Village of Kiryas Joel.  Finding Woodbury waived its rights, the Supreme Court, Orange County granted the defendants’ motions for summary judgment.  The Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second department reversed the order and judgment and reinstated the action.

Branch owned land within the Village of Woodbury.  Branch sold this land to the Village of Kiryas Joel.  Kiryas Joel intended to use this property to build water supply towers.  Woodbury then filed this action claiming Branch did not obtain the necessary zoning approval prior to the transaction.  Specifically, Woodbury asserted that the transaction is illegal and void until a subdivision application is approved and a subdivision plat is filed.  Later, Woodbury and Kiryas Joel entered into a written agreement, which provided that Woodbury “agreed that ‘the appropriate balancing of the public interests has occurred’ and, therefore, Kiryas Joel could complete the construction of the water towers on the subject property.”  Both defendants thereafter moved to dismiss the claim for failure to state a cause of action.  The Supreme Court granted the respective motions, finding Woodbury waived its right to subdivision approval when it entered into the agreement with Kiryas Joel.

The Second Department reversed the Supreme Court’s order and judgment, finding the defendant’s motions to dismiss should have been denied.  The court found that the amended complaint was sufficient to permit review concerning “whether the conveyance of the subject property to Kiryas Joel was exempt from subdivision review and approval by the appropriate municipal body of the Village of Woodbury, based on the ‘balancing of public interests approach’ adopted in Matter of County of Monroe (City of Rochester) (72 NY2d 338, 343) to determine ‘the applicability of local zoning laws where a conflict arises between two governmental entities.’”  Furthermore, the Second Department found dismissal was inappropriate due to the existence of a material fact in Woodbury’s favor that was not disputed by the defendants.

The Second Department also stated that the Supreme Court’s declaratory judgment in favor of the defendants was improper.  The Supreme Court should not have granted a declaratory judgment because there are existing questions of fact.  In addition, declaratory judgment was improper because the agreement between the two municipalities does “not necessarily constitute a concession” that the subject parcel would be exempt from the subdivision control of Woodbury.

Village of Woodbury v. Branch, 2012 WL 4513154 (N.Y.A.D. 2nd Dep’t, Oct. 3, 2012).

The opinion can be accessed here.

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