Court Establishes Statute of Limitations for Challenge to Municipal Review Fees

A Court held that a challenge to the imposition of fees for the services of engineers and attorneys retained by a town to review and assess the petitioner’s application for approval of a subdivision must be brought within four months of the date the Town unambiguously notified the petitioner that payment was required and the application would not proceed until the petitioner paid the fees.

In an action to recover some of the fees paid, the Appellate Division Third Department, in Properties of New York, Inc. v. Planning Board of the Town of Stuyvesant, noted the Court of Appeals has established a two-part test for when an administrative action is final and binding: “First, the agency must have reached a definitive position on the issue that inflicts actual, concrete injury and second, the injury inflicted may not be prevented or significantly ameliorated either by further administrative action or by steps available to the complaining party.”

The petitioner had argued that the charging of the fees was part of the subdivision approval process and would not be complete until the final plat was endorsed. The Court held the endorsement of the plat did not alter the petitioner’s obligation to pay and, therefore, the court found the petitioner suffered the concrete injury when the fees were imposed, rather than when the final approval of the plat was granted. There was no alternative or opportunity for amelioration because there was a definite obligation to pay the fees. Finally, the court held that the petitioner’s demand for an audit and return of fees paid was effectively a request for reconsideration and did not extend the statute of limitations.