Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 24, 2019

NY Appellate Court Finds Zoning Amendments Were Consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and that the Legislative Body Properly Relied on the Advice of the Planning and Zoning Committee

The petitioners/plaintiffs, owners of residential real property in the Village challenged five local laws amending the Zoning Code of the Village. Three of the challenged amendments impact building on lots of 40,000 square feet or greater. Local Law No. 13–2015 reduced the maximum allowable gross floor area for one- and two-family detached dwellings on such lots. Local Law No. 14–2015 reduced the maximum permitted coverage for all structures on such lots. Local Law No. 15–2015 reduced the maximum allowable gross floor area for all accessory buildings on all such lots. The other two amendments impacted all lots in the Village—Local Law 16–2015 added to the Village Zoning Code a definition of “story,” which previously was not defined, and Local Law 17–2015 modified the definition of “cellar” so as to restrict the permissible parameters of a cellar.
Petitioners sought to annul the laws claiming, among other things, that (1) the amendments are not in accordance with the Village’s comprehensive plan; and (2) the Board of Trustees improperly relied on the recommendation of the Village Planning and Zoning Committee (hereinafter the Planning and Zoning Committee) in adopting the subject amendments. The trial court denied the petition, dismissed the proceeding/action, and declared that the challenged local laws are a legal, constitutional, and valid exercise of the police and zoning powers of the village, and this appeal ensued.
The appellate court agreed with the court below that the challenged amendments are consistent with the comprehensive plan of the Village and that the petitioners failed to establish that any of the challenged amendments are inconsistent with the plan. In fact, the Court noted that the plan included: a statement of the importance for the Village to ensure that new development or redevelopment of residential properties was compatible with the character of the existing neighborhood in which it occurs; that the Village accomplished this goal by limiting the gross floor area for all homes in relation to lot size and the total coverage of the residential lot; and a recommendation further limiting the maximum gross floor area and coverage for residential lots, including accessory structures, so that new residential development would be more responsive and compatible with the scale of existing development. Therefore, the Court concluded that the subject amendments were entirely consistent with the comprehensive plan.
The court further disagreed with the petitioners’ contention that the Board of Trustees improperly relied on the advice of the Planning and Zoning Committee and thereby denied the petitioners the notice and opportunity to comment required under Village Law §§ 7–706 and 7–708, and under the open meetings provisions of the Public Officers Law. The Court noted that the record supports the determination below that “the Planning and Zoning Committee was advisory in nature, did not perform governmental functions, and, therefore, was not a public body subject to the open meetings provisions of the Public Officers Law, even though the Planning and Zoning Committee contained at least one member of the Board of Trustees.”

Bonacker Property, LLC v. Village of East Hampton Board of Trustees, 2019 WL 288160 (NYAD 2 Dept. 1/23/2019).

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