Posted On: August 23, 2006

Legislature Provides for Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Requests by E-Mail

Effective August 14, 2006 (Chapter 182 of the laws of 2006) the Public Officers Law, which governs FOIL requests, has been amended at section 89 (3) by adding (b) “All entities shall, provided such entity has reasonable means available, accept requests for records submitted in the form of electronic mail and shall respond to such requests by electronic mail, using forms, to the extent practicable, consistent with the form or forms developed by the committee on open government pursuant to subdivision one of this section and provided that the written requests do not seek a response in some other form.” Section 89(1) has also been amended to require development of forms for e-mail requests.

Posted On: August 21, 2006

Court Holds Challenge To Zoning Law Must Be Brought Within Four Months of Adoption-Sometimes

In a July 5, 2006 decision the New York Court of Appeals held that an Article 78 challenge to a rezoning was properly brought within four months of the rezoning, despite the fact that the challenge alleging SEQRA violations was brought more than four months after the SEQRA findings were adopted. In Eadie v. Town Board of the Town of North Greenbush, the Court of Appeals found that the challenge to rezoning was timely and that the Town Board complied with SEQRA requirements.

In holding that the Article 78 four-month statute of limitations began to run when the rezoning was enacted, the court noted that previous cases held the period begins when the petitioner has suffered injury not amenable to further review and corrective action. Since the Court found the petitioner in this case suffered no concrete injury until the Town Board approved the rezoning, petitioner had until four months from the date the new zoning was enacted to commence his action.

Despite language apparently indicating a bright-line rule as to the statute of limitations issue, the court then went on to note: “[T]his does not mean that, in every case where a SEQRA process precedes a rezoning, the statute of limitations runs from the latter event, for in some cases it may be the SEQRA process, not the rezoning, that inflicts the injury of which the petitioner complains.” The Court gave as an example the possibility that certain mitigation measures adopted in SEQRA findings might burden those challenging the rezoning. In such a case the Court noted the injury and therefore the time to bring a challenge would run from the adoption of the SEQRA findings, not the enactment of the legislation.

Thus the four month statute of limitations does not always begin to run at the enactment of the ordinance, but may begin to run at another point in time. This ruling should generate some interesting decisions in the future.

Posted On: August 7, 2006

Court Finds Substantial Compliance Sufficient to Uphold Petition to Establish Water District

A petition to establish a water district may be approved even when it contains technical defects if the petition substantially complies with applicable requirements.

In Angelis v. Town of New Baltimore, the validity of a petition to establish a new water district was challenged. Opponents based the challenge on technical defects such as missing or incomplete information, failure to initial handwritten changes, and questionable handwriting/signature relationships. The Appellate Division Third Department held that none of the alleged defects were fatal to the petition, and that the petition could stand because requirements were substantially complied with.

The court reasoned that Town Law requirements were satisfied, and looked to the Election Law for authority stating that substantial compliance with requirements as to form is deemed acceptable.