Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 24, 2018

NY Appellate Court Finds Board’s SEQRA Review was Sufficient

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

 

The petitioners were the owners and managers of real property that was adjacent to a 19.5-acre parcel that, since 1989, had been classified as a business and technology district (“BTD”). This zoning classification continued after respondent Village of Lansing first adopted a comprehensive plan in accordance with Village Law § 7–722 in 1999, and after the comprehensive plan was amended in 2015. In November 2016, the members of the Village of Lansing Board of Trustees adopted Local Law No. 3 of the Village of Lansing, which rezoned the subject property as a high density residential district (“HDRD”). Petitioners commenced this combined CPLR article 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action to challenge Local Law No. 3, arguing that it was adopted in violation of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA); was not consistent with the comprehensive plan; and constituted illegal spot zoning. Respondents moved for summary judgment, and the Supreme Court of New York granted the motion and dismissed the complaint.

On appeal, the court found that prior to enacting Local Law No. 3, the Board, together with the Village Planning Board, held a number of meetings during which public comments were accepted. Furthermore, the Board considered materials submitted by the developers intending to construct a 140-unit apartment complex on the subject property, which included a traffic study, an engineering report and rental housing needs study. As such, the court rejected petitioners’ contention that Local Law No. 3 was enacted in violation of SEQRA.

The record also reflected that in completing the environmental assessment form (“EAF”) the Board concluded that the zoning change from commercial use to residential use, as a “down zoning request,” would not materially conflict with the Village’s comprehensive plan. Specifically, the Board reasoned that the zoning change was consistent with the Village’s commitment to controlled residential development and preserving the noncommercial character of residential districts. Following its review of the completed EAF, the Board issued a negative declaration, determining that the rezoning would not have a significant adverse environmental impact. Based on the reasons articulated by the Board, the court held that petitioners’ claim that respondents’ SEQRA review was deficient was contradicted by the record.

Next, the court found that the rezoning of the subject property from a BTD to an HDRD was not impermissible spot zoning, nor was Local Law No. 3 adopted in contravention of the comprehensive plan. Here, the record demonstrated that the subject property was directly adjacent to areas zoned for residential use and for commercial use. The Board noted that, consistent with the comprehensive plan, rezoning the subject property from a BTD to an HDRD would create a better transition between the two areas. Thus, the court found Local Law No. 3 was consistent with the Village’s comprehensive plan and was “calculated to benefit the community as a whole as opposed to benefitting individuals or a group of individuals” Accordingly, petitioners failed to demonstrate that the rezoning was arbitrary, unreasonable or unlawful. Thus, the judgment dismissing the complaint was affirmed.

Heights of Lansing, LLC v Village of Lansing, 2018 WL 1747777 (NYAD 3 Dept. 4/12/2018)

 


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