Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 21, 2017

NY Appellate Court Finds Board Member’s Opposition to the Proposed Project Did Not Alone Constitute a Conflict of Interest

Petitioner was the owner and developer of a proposed mixed-use development in the Village of Pittsford (Village). After conducting a SEQRA environmental review, the Board of Trustees (“Board”) declared that the project would not have a significant environmental impact and issued the requisite permits to the Petitioner. However, after the Board later approved a preliminary site plan, it determined that “substantive changes” had arisen creating a “potential significant adverse impact” on the environment. Petitioner commenced an Article 78 proceeding to reinstate the negative declaration. It argued that several members of the Board were biased against of project and should have been recused from the meetings and decision-making process.

The Appellate Court noted that two of the Board members had expressed opposition to the project before and after they were elected to the Board. However, the court held that their personal opinions were not a basis for finding a conflict of interest and thus they were allowed to participate in the deliberations and vote on the resolutions. In fact, the court suggested that public officials should be encouraged to voice their opinions in matters of public concern.

Pittsford Canalside Properties, LLC v. Vill. of Pittsford, 137 A.D.3d 1566, 1566 (N.Y. 4th Dept. 2016).

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