Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 15, 2018

NY Appellate Court Finds Town Site Plan Review Law Granted Authority for Planning Board to Impose Conditions on Approvals

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Petitioner Andrew Bovee owned property in the Town of Hadley adjacent to property owned by his parents. Bovee regularly processed, stored and sold firewood on his property, and applied for site plan development approval to conduct additional business activities there. The Planning Board approved the application upon the understanding that Bovee would store 7 to 10 cords of firewood on the property. Following enforcement proceedings commenced due to the excessive amount and disruptive location of firewood on Bovee’s property, Bovee and his parents separately applied for site plan approval pursuant to the Site Plan Review Law. The Planning Board conditionally approved these applications. Bovee and his parents separately commenced the present combined proceedings and declaratory judgment actions challenging the conditional approvals and to seeking a judgment annulling them on the basis that the Planning Board lacked the authority to issue them. The lower court granted the petitions and annulled the challenged determinations, and the respondents appealed.
At the outset, the court noted that there was no statutory directive that a municipality employ both zoning and site plan review as mechanisms of land-use control. While the Town of Hadley did not have a “zoning ordinance,” its Town Board adopted the Site Plan Review Law, a “local law” that authorized the Planning Board “to review and approve, approve with modifications or disapprove site plans”. This Site Plan Review Law set forth the details required on a site plan review application, the goals of the Town comprehensive plan, and specified the factors that the Planning Board should consider in reviewing a site plan application. Thus, the Site Plan Review Law was found valid, and the Planning Board therefore had authority to determine the site plan review applications at issue.
The Supreme Court, in light of its erroneous conclusion that the Site Plan Review Law was invalid, did not reach the challenges of Bovee and his parents to the conditional approvals themselves. Here, the record reflected that the Planning Board imposed a number of conditions in approving the applications, including requirements that fencing be installed, limitations on firewood storage and restrictions on where and when firewood could be processed and sold by Bovee. The court found that these conditions, which were directly responsive to the complaints of neighbors regarding Bovee’s business operations, were not arbitrary or capricious. Accordingly, the decision of the Supreme Court of New York was reversed.
Bovee v Town of Hadley Planning Board, 201 WL 1629509 9 (NYAD 3 Dept. 4/15/2018)

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