Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 5, 2015

Fed. Dist. Court in NY Dismisses Land Use Claims Due to Expired Statute of Limitations

The Melchners owned and operated the Mahopac Marina, which provides recreational access to Lake Mahopac and sells, stores, and repairs boats. The Melchners maintained that over a fifteen year period, the Town brought four civil and three criminal suits against them, alleging various violations of the Town’s Zoning Code (the “Zoning Code”) relating to construction and maintenance of the Marina. In 2008, the Town brought criminal charges against the Melchners alleging four violations of the Zoning Code, and commenced a civil action and moved preliminarily to enjoin the Melchners from using the Marina. The Melchners brought this action, alleging (i) deprivations of their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and property guaranteed by the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, (ii) selective enforcement in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (iii) state law claims for tortious inference with business relationships, breach of contract, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The statute of limitations applicable to a Section 1983 claim accruing in New York is three years. The Melchners argued that the Court should borrow New York’s continuing violation doctrine and find their Section 1983 claims for unconstitutional retaliation, taking, deprivation of substantive due process, and selective enforcement constitute continuing violations, tolling the three-year statute of limitations. However, the latest the Melchners knew or had reason to know defendants allegedly retaliated against them for their protected speech, deprived them of the Marina’s economically beneficial use, arbitrarily deprived them of their valid property interest, and selectively enforced the Zoning Code against them for impermissible reasons was when the Town commenced its last suit against them on June 30, 2009. Therefore, applying the applicable three-year statute of limitations, the last possible date on which any Section 1983 claim could have been brought was June 30, 2012. Because this action was commenced on November 15, 2013, the court found these claims to be time-barred and granted the Defendants’ motion to dismiss.

Melchner v Town of Carmel, 2014 WL 6665755 (SDNY 11/21/2014)


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