Posted On: May 13, 2008

Belated March Madness-SEQRA and Zoning Cases from March, 2008

Due to a busy litigation schedule, we fell short in reporting a number of SEQRA and zoning cases that came down during March of 2008. So we thought we would provide a brief summary of some of the cases decided by New York appellate courts during March of 2008, in case you missed them also.

Rossi v. Town Bd. of Ballston, 2008 NY Slip Op 02740 (3d Dep’t Mar. 27, 2008). SEQRA-the burden is on the party challenging a SEQRA determination to provide evidence to refute expert testimony.

Muir v. Town of Newburgh Planning Board, 2008 NY Slip Op 02596 (2d Dep’t Mar. 18, 2008). SEQRA-a full review of environmental impacts of a prior proposal that did not proceed was sufficient for a SEQRA “hard look” at a new scaled down proposal for the same site.

Allstate Properties, LLC v. Board of Zoning Appeals of Vill. of Hempstead, 2008 WL 669808; 2008 N.Y. Slip Op. 02412 (Mar. 11, 2008). Area Variances-the five part balancing test before granting an area variance.

Joann London v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Town of Huntington, 2008 WL 740523; 2008 NY Slip Op 02593 (2d Dep’t Mar. 18, 2008). Variance precedent- zoning board properly distinguished prior variance requests in denying a request for a lot area variance.

Red Hook /Gowanis Chamber of Commerce v. NYC Bd. of Standards and Appeals, 2008 WL 740514; 2008 NY Slip Op 02600 (March 18, 2008). Use Variance- what constitutes “dollars and cents” proof.

Posted On: May 12, 2008

Municipal Home Rule Permits Creation of Position of Police Commissioner

The Appellate Division Second Department held in the case Overton v. Town of Southampton that a town board is authorized to create the position of police commissioner as chief administrative officer of the police department by local law. The court determined that the local law creating the position of police commissioner was not barred by the Civil Service Law provision requiring that a town maintain the position of chief of police. Here the chief of police kept his position but the local law requires the chief to report to a single police commissioner.

The court noted it had previously held that nothing in the Civil Service Law prevents a local government from requiring that the chief report to other local officials. Further, Town Law section 150(2) authorizes a town board to delegate supervision over the police department to a board of police commissioners. The court found that the Town properly invoked its authority under Municipal Home Rule Law section 22 to supersede the provision of Town Law permitting a board of commissioners and instead create the position of police commissioner by local law.

Posted On: May 11, 2008

When Is a Water District Not a Municipality?

The Court of Appeals held, for purposes of allocating costs of New York’s “one-call” system for locating underground pipes, cables wires etc. before excavating, a water district created by Town Law is not a municipality. In Jericho Water District v. One Call Users Council, Inc. the Court held that a water district is therefore not exempt from contributing to the cost of maintaining the one-call system.

General Business Law section 761 provides for maintaining the one-call system with cost being shared among operators of underground facilities, except “municipalities and authorities that operate underground facilities and any operator of underground facilities that provides water service to less than four thousand customers.” The Jericho Water District was created pursuant to Town Law section 190 with the commissioners elected rather than being appointed by the Town Board. The court noted that various statutes define municipality either narrowly to include only counties, cities, towns, villages and school districts, or more broadly to also include specialized government units like a water district. However, the provision of the General Business Law at issue does not include a definition of municipality.

The court found that both general usage and the General Construction Law (which defines “municipal corporation”) would apply a more narrow definition, which would not include a water district as a municipality. While the General Construction Law defines municipal corporation rather than municipality the court construed the terms as synonymous. It therefore concluded, absent a definition in the specific statute to be applied, the narrow definition in the General Construction Law applies as “exceptions to generally applicable statutory provisions should be strictly construed…”