Site Plan Application Annulled Due to Prejudging By Planning Board Members

The Appellate Division Fourth Department reversed the granting of a site plan approval where it found that three planning board members had “impermissibly prejudged” an application. In Schweichler v. Village of Caledonia the court dismissed claims of improper spot zoning and violations of SEQRA but remitted the site plan application for further review by the planning board stating “the appearance of bias and actual bias in this case require annulment of the Planning Board’s site plan approval.”

The court noted that three members of the planning board had signed a petition in favor of rezoning the property. Further, the chair had “manifested actual bias” when she wrote to the Mayor supporting the rezoning. Her letter went so far as to state that she would like to see the new housing made available to her so she could sell her home. To further seal the fate of the application, the court found that there were no measurements provided to demonstrate compliance with the Village Code.

How to hold further hearings on an application where the court found three of the members were biased? The court noted that Village Law section 7-718 (16)(b) permits designation by the chair of alternate members and directed that an acting chair perform the duties of the chair pursuant to Village Law section 7-718 (10).