Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 16, 2018

NY Appellate Court Affirms SEQRA Determination and Rezoning to Allow Gas Station and Convenience Store

This post was authored by Amy Lavine, Esq.

A New York case decided in August addressed land use applications submitted by QuickChek Corporation in 2013 to operate a gas station and convenience store in the Town of Islip. In order to be approved, the property had to be rezoned by the town board from Busineass One to Business Three, and a special permit was also needed from the planning board. After reviewing the proposal’s environmental impacts, the planning board approved QuickChek’s application in 2014 and issued special permits for the proposed convenience store and “minor restaurant.” Shortly thereafter, the town board determined that the project would not result in adverse environmental impacts and granted both  QuickChek’s rezoning request and its request for a gas station special permit. Nearby property owners appealed.

The court first rejected QuickChek’s argument that the opponents didn’t have standing, finding instead that they’d “alleged sufficient harm other than merely an increase in competition that they would sustain as a result of the proposed development.”

As to the merits, the court rejected the neighbors’s claim that the town had violated the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). As the court noted, the town board acted appropriately in treating the project as a single action under SEQRA, despite the fact that the application included several different stages and required approvals from different local agencies. Nor was there any evidence in the record to suggest that the town had improperly delegated its authority under SEQRA. The court also found that the town fulfilled its responsibility to take a hard look at the project’s possible environmental impacts, noting that “Judicial review of a negative declaration under SEQRA is limited to whether the lead agency identified the relevant areas of environmental concern, took the requisite hard look, and made a reasoned elaboration of the basis for its determination.”

With regard to the rezoning decision, the court also rejected the neighbors’ claim of illegal spot zoning. As it explained, “Spot zoning is the singling out of a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area, for the benefit of the owner of such property and to the detriment of other owners. In evaluating a claim of spot zoning, the inquiry focuses on whether the rezoning is part of a well-considered and comprehensive plan calculated to serve the general welfare of the community.” Because the neighbors couldn’t show that the rezoning was inconsistent with surrounding land uses or the town’s comprehensive plan–the minimum required elements of spot zoning–their arguments necessarily failed.

Star Property Holding, LLC v Town of Islip, 2018 WL 3999666 (NYAD 2 Dept. 8/22/2018 )

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