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Rezoning Single Parcel Was Not Spot Zoning

The Appellate Division upheld the rezoning of a parcel from commercial to high density residential, despite the provisions of the local comprehensive plan and the failure to prepare an environmental impact statement. In Matter of the Hgts. of Lansing LLC v. the Village of Lansing, the Court found that the Village Board, in adopting the zoning amendment, reviewed the relevant environmental issues and that the the change of zone was consistent with the goals of the Village’s comprehensive plan.

On the issue of SEQRA, the Village Board, as lead agency under SEQRA, analyzed a number of issues before issuing a SEQRA negative declaration. The Court noted that the Village Board held joint meetings with the planning board at which public comment was heard and then made findings, including that:

“…the zoning change from commercial use to residential use, as a ‘down zoning request,’ would not materially conflict with the Village’s comprehensive plan because, among other things, it was consistent with the Village’s commitment to controlled residential development and preserving the noncommercial character of residential districts. Similarly, and because the rezoning would be consistent with existing land use, the Board determined that the zoning change (1) would have no impact on the quality or character of the community, (2) would not promote the development of a critical environmental area, (3) would not increase energy use, (4) would not impact public or private water supplies or wastewater treatment facilities, (5) would not impact historic archaeological, architectural or aesthetic resources, (6) would not increase the potential for erosion, flooding or drainage problems, and (7) would not create a hazard to environmental resources or human health. The Board also determined that there would be a minimal, though positive, impact on existing traffic patterns because, even if the maximum number of residential units were built and occupied, the number of daily trips would be less than that which would be generated by continued commercial use of the property. Similarly, the Board found that there would be a small and theoretically beneficial impact on the intensity of use because less land could be developed than if the subject property remained zoned for commercial use. ”

The Court therefore held that the Village took the required “hard look” at potential environmental issues, concluding: “…petitioners’ claim that respondents’ SEQRA review was deficient because there was no consideration of the anticipated but not yet proposed residential development is belied by the record. A lead agency ‘need not investigate every conceivable environmental problem’ during the course of SEQRA review (Matter of Save the Pine Bush, Inc. v Common Council of City of Albany, 13 NY3d 297, 307 [2009]), and ‘generalized community objections or speculative environmental consequences’ are not sufficient to establish a SEQRA violation (Matter of Village of Chestnut Ridge v Town of Ramapo, 99 AD3d 918, 925-926 [2012] [internal citations omitted], lv dismissed and denied 20 NY3d 1034 [2013]).”

Next the Court addressed the claim that the amendment was spot zoning, which the Court noted is defined as: “the process of singling out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area for the benefit of the owner of said property to the detriment of other owners…” The Court stated that a rezoning cannot be spot zoning, if it is consistent with the municipality’s comprehensive plan and held:

“[t]he record confirms that the subject property is directly adjacent to areas zoned for residential use and for commercial use. The Board noted that, consistent with the comprehensive plan, rezoning the subject property from a BTD to an HDRD would create a better transition between the two areas. Although petitioners argue that the proposed high-end residential development does not further the expected need for affordable housing expressed in the comprehensive plan, the zoning change does comport with the community’s general need for rental housing and the goal — expressed in the plan — to encourage the development of “a broad range” of housing options, particularly for an aging population. In our view, Local Law No. 3 was consistent with the Village’s comprehensive plan and was “calculated to benefit the community as a whole as opposed to benefitting individuals or a group of individuals” (Asian Ams. for Equality v Koch, 72 NY2d at 131; see Daniels v Van Voris, 241 AD2d 796, 798 [1997]). Under the circumstances, petitioners have failed to demonstrate that the rezoning was arbitrary, unreasonable or unlawful (see Matter of Citizens for Responsible Zoning v Common Council of City of Albany, 56 AD3d at 1062).”

-Steven Silverberg