Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 17, 2019

NY Appellate Court Holds Overlay District Law was Not Preempted by Mined Land Reclamation Law

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.
In March 2006, petitioner-plaintiff Frontier Stone, LLC applied for a mining permit for a proposed stone quarry in an agricultural/residential (AR) zoning district in the Town. Shortly thereafter, the Town Board adopted a moratorium on processing special permit applications for mining and excavation projects. The Town Board then adopted Local Law No. 5 of 2007, which effectively removed excavation and mining from the list of conditional uses in the Town’s AR zoning district. Next, the Town Board proposed Local Law No. 2 of 2016, which would create a wildlife refuge overlay district covering both the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge (“INWR”) and a buffer area of nearby land that included the land on which the project site was located, and would prohibit mining and excavation of that land. The Town Board then adopted the 2017 Law, which defined the overlay district as including the INWR and the reduced buffer area, and which prohibited mining within the overlay district.
Petitioners argued that the 2017 Law conflicted with the Town’s comprehensive plan, and the Town Board therefore lacked authority to adopt it. Here, the 2007 Law, which was made part of the Town’s comprehensive plan, effectively banned mining in the AR district in which the project site was located. As no industrial zones were present within the overlay district created by the 2017 Law, the court found that petitioners failed to establish a clear conflict between the 2017 Law and the Town’s comprehensive plan. Here, the Town Board made specific findings about the need to preserve and protect the INWR and its unique wildlife habitat, and the Town Board clarified that the new overlay district would not authorize any development, but would rather restrict land uses to protect the environment.
The court next rejected petitioners’ claim that the 2017 Law was preempted by the New York State Mined Land Reclamation Law (“MLRL”). Pursuant to the MLRL “while a locality retains general authority to regulate land use, and has the authority to determine that mining will not be a use within its confines, it may not regulate the specifics of the extractive mining or reclamation process.” Since the 2017 Law prohibited mining in a certain portion of the Town and did not affect the process or method of mining, the court held it was not preempted by the MLRL.
Petitioners lastly argued that the Town’s determination enacting the 2017 Law must be annulled as the Town failed to comply with lawful procedure. The court found that, since the 2017 Law was enacted pursuant to the Municipal Home Rule Law, the procedural requirements of the Town Law did not apply to its enactment. Furthermore, the changes between the proposed 2016 Law and the 2017 Law were minor and did not result in a substantially different law or one that was not “embraced within the prior public notice”. Accordingly, the Supreme Court of New York’s dismissal of petitioners’ complaint was affirmed.
Frontier Stone, LLC v. Town of Shelby, 174 A.D.3d 1382 ( 4th Dept. 2019)

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