Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 27, 2015

NY Appellate Court Upholds Planning Board’s Decision to Rescind Subdivision and Site Plan Approvals

Petitioner Sullivan Farms II, Inc. owned property in the Village of Wurtsboro, Sullivan County and adjoining property in the Town of Mamakating, Sullivan County. In 2009, Sullivan Farms II obtained conditional final site plan and subdivision approval from respondent Village of Wurtsboro Planning Board for the development and construction of a 72–unit townhouse residential cluster development known as “Kaufman Farms West”. The approval lapsed due to inactivity, so Sullivan Farms IV, LLC, successor-in-interest, sought and was granted approval in 2011. Petitioner Kaufman Farms, LLC submitted a site plan/special use application with the Planning Board for a separate residential cluster development, known as “Kaufman Farms East,” on nearby property that it owned. During the pendency of that review, respondent Village of Wurtsboro Board of Trustees adopted Local Law No. 1 of the Village of Wurtsboro (2014) and Local Law No. 2 of the Village of Wurtsboro (2014), which alter the procedure for calculating the number of allowable building lots or dwelling units for a residential cluster subdivision within the Village. As a result, the Planning Board rescinded its prior approval for Kaufman Farms West. Petitioners thereafter commenced a CPLR article 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action to rescind the subdivision and site plan approvals for Kaufman Farms West. The New York Supreme Court granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss, finding the amended petition/complaint failed to state a cause of action.

Under the Village Law, the number of building lots or dwelling units in a cluster development “shall in no case exceed the number which could be permitted, in the planning board’s judgment, if the land were subdivided into lots conforming to the minimum lot size and density requirements of the zoning local law applicable to the district or districts in which such land is situated” While, the 85 acres encompassing the development was more than sufficient to permit the proposed 72 dwelling units, the 54 acres actually located within the Village were inadequate. Therefore, the Planning Board rationally determined that its final approval of the Kaufman Farms West project violated state and local law and must be rescinded. Moreover, since subdivision approval here was not legally granted in the first instance, Sullivan Farms never had a valid approval from which vested rights could be acquired.

Petitioners next alleged that the Planning Board failed to make any findings pursuant to SEQRA when it rescinded the subdivision approval. However, the court found that the Planning Board was correct when it noted in its revised determination that it “was merely performing the ministerial function of rescinding an approval that was void ab initio” and, as a result, was not performing an “action” so as to trigger the requirements of SEQRA. Furthermore, the Board of Trustees “identified the relevant areas of environmental concern, took a hard look at them, and made a reasoned elaboration of the basis for its determinations”. Accordingly, the trial court’s dismissal of petitioner’s complain was affirmed.

Sullivan Farms IV, LLC v Village of Wurstboro, 2015 WL 8373781 (NYAD 3 Dept. 12/10/2015)


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