Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 27, 2019

NY Appellate Court Upholds Dismissal of Jurisdiction and Open Meetings Law Claims Arising from Denial of Application for Landscaping Business

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Plaintiffs/petitioners, 30 Sephar Lane and Steve’s Lawns, Inc., commenced a hybrid action for declaratory relief, and proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 against the Village of Chestnut Ridge Zoning Board of Appeals, and various members of the Zoning Board of Appeals. In their first cause of action, the plaintiffs/petitioners sought to annul a determination of the Zoning Board of Appeals dated January 17, 2012, on the ground that the determination was made without jurisdiction or authority. The second cause of action sought to annul the determination on the ground that it was rendered in violation of the Open Meetings Law and sought an award of costs and attorneys’ fees pursuant to Public Officers Law § 107(2). The sixth cause of action sought a judgment declaring that Local Law No. 1 (2009) of the Village of Chestnut Ridge was unconstitutionally void for vagueness. The Supreme Court of New York granted the petition and awarded summary judgment to the plaintiffs/petitioners on the sixth cause of action.

On appeal, the court found that absent a determination of the Building Inspector or other administrative official charged with the enforcement of the local zoning law, the Zoning Board of Appeals was without jurisdiction to consider Chestnut Ridge Associates’ application for an interpretation of the local zoning law to determine if the plaintiffs/petitioners’ landscaping business was a permitted use in a laboratory office-zoned district. Accordingly, the court upheld the Supreme Court’s annulment of the determination of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

The court next determined that the record supported a finding that the Zoning Board of Appeals violated the Open Meetings Law with regard to a workshop meeting held on January 17, 2012, by failing to give proper notice of the meeting. Despite this, plaintiffs/petitioners failed to establish good cause to annul the Board’s determination on that ground, as the improperly noticed meeting was open to the public and the determination at issue was adopted at a publicized, public meeting, after a series of public meetings with regard thereto had previously been held.

Chestnut Ridge Associates, LLC v. 30 Sephar Lane, Inc, 2019 WL 944459 (NYAD 2 Dept. 2/27/2019)

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