Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 21, 2018

NY Appellate Court Upholds Adoption of Town’s Comprehensive Plan

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser. Esq.

Petitioner submitted a site plan application in 2001 to construct numerous commercial and residential buildings on an undeveloped parcel of land in the Town of Riverhead. The petitioner worked with Town officials to revise the site plan application to bring it into compliance with then-applicable zoning rules. The petitioner submitted its last revised site plan application in September 2003. While that application was still pending the Town Board adopted the Comprehensive Plan on November 3, 2003, which eliminated certain permitted uses on the petitioner’s parcel critical to the site plan application. The petitioner commenced a hybrid proceeding challenging the Town Board’s adoption the Comprehensive Plan, which affected part of the property subject to the petitioner’s site plan application. The Supreme Court of New York held that the Comprehensive Plan was a legal, constitutional, and valid exercise of the police and zoning powers of the Town Board.

The record reflected that following the Town Board’s referral to the Planning Commission, the Planning Commission processed the referral, held a hearing, voted, and reported its recommendations to the Town Board. There was no evidence in the record that the Planning Commission determined the Town Board’s referral was deficient in any respect. Therefore, the court found the Town Board made a “full statement” of its proposed Comprehensive Plan in accordance with General Municipal Law § 239–m. Moreover, the revisions made to the Comprehensive Plan after referral were “ ‘embraced within the original referral’ ” Thus, contrary to the petitioner’s contention, the court found the Town Board made a proper referral of the Comprehensive Plan to the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

The court analyzed whether the Town Board complied with the procedural and substantive requirements of SEQRA in adopting the Comprehensive Plan. Here, the Town Board did not improperly segment environmental review by adopting the Comprehensive Plan separately from the zoning amendments implementing it. The draft and final generic environmental impact statements (hereinafter the draft and final GEISs) explicitly analyzed the expected cumulative impacts of the Town Board enacting zoning amendments consistent with the proposals in the Comprehensive Plan. Furthermore, the draft and final GEISs discussed mitigation measures, reasonable alternatives to the proposed action, and specific conditions under which future actions will be undertaken or approved in the appropriate level of detail. As such, the court determined that the Town Board complied with the substantive requirements of SEQRA.

The court also found that the Supreme Court properly determined that the respondents were entitled to a judgment declaring that the Comprehensive Plan was a constitutional and valid exercise of the Town Board’s police powers. Here, the stated purpose of the Comprehensive Plan’s proposed designation of the undeveloped land as an agricultural protected zone had a rational relationship to numerous legitimate purposes, including, but not limited to, the preservation and promotion of agriculture, the preservation of “agricultural integrity”, and preservation of the Town’s rural aesthetics and character. Accordingly, the petitioner’s contention that the Comprehensive Plan’s goal of promoting agriculture exceeded the Town Board’s zoning powers is meritless

Calverton v Town of Riverhead, 2018 WL 1833207 (NYAD 2 Dept. 4/18/18)

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