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Court Finds Planning Board’s Site Plan Conditions Rational and Challenges to ZBA Decisions Untimely

The Appellate Division Second Department found that challenges to requirements of two  Zoning Board of Appeals decisions and the conditions to a site plan approval issued by a Planning Board should stand. In the Matter of Florida Historical Society v. the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Village of Florida, the Court held that the challenges to the two determinations by the Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”) were not timely, as they failed to be commenced within thirty days of the filing of the determinations and further upheld the determination of the Planning Board, fixing  conditions with which the Petitioner failed to comply.

The Petitioner, Historical Society, was the beneficiary of the Estate of Raymond F. Green, who left his home and approximately fourteen surrounding acres of property to the Petitioner. The Petitioner sought to establish its headquarters, a meeting space and  museum at the location of the home and walking trails, with educational markers, on the remainder of the property.

The Petitioner applied to the Planning Board for approval claiming the uses were permitted and the Planning Board determined that a “conditional use variance” was required.

“The petitioner then sought an interpretation of the relevant zoning requirements from the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Village of Florida (hereinafter the ZBA) and, in the alternative, applied for a conditional use variance. In a resolution dated September 22, 2015, the ZBA determined that a conditional use variance was required. The ZBA then granted the variance, but only as to a small part of the property on which the residential building was located. The ZBA denied the variance as to the remaining undeveloped acreage ‘without prejudice with the right . . . to re-apply with a more detailed plan at a future time.’

In a subsequent resolution, dated March 14, 2016, the ZBA again found that a conditional use variance was required. The ZBA then granted the variance for the remaining undeveloped acreage, subject to authorization and plan approval by the planning board.”

Thereafter, the Petitioner applied to the Planning Board. The Planning Board granted a conditional approval of  the site plan, subject to several conditions, including the filing of a survey for the entire property. The Petitioner “refused” to meet the conditions and the Planning Board subsequently, in May of 2017, denied the application for site plan approval.

“The petitioner commenced this hybrid proceeding to review so much of the ZBA’s September 22, 2015 and March 14, 2016 resolutions as determined that a conditional use variance was required, and action, inter alia, for injunctive relief against the respondents/defendants Village, ZBA, planning board, and others (hereinafter collectively the respondents). The respondents joined issue and moved to dismiss the petition/complaint pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(5) and (7). In an order and judgment dated December 28, 2017, the Supreme Court granted the motion, in part, and, in effect, denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding/action. The petitioner appeals”

The Appellate Division upheld the lower Court’s determination. To the extent the challenge seeks to overturn the ZBA determinations dated September 22, 2015, and March 14, 2016, the Court noted such challenges must be brought within thirty days of filing and having failed to bring timely challenges, the matters were properly dismissed. With regard to the denial by the Planning Board, the Court likewise found the lower court was correct, in finding a rational basis for the Board’s determination.

“A local planning board has broad discretion in conducting a site plan review, and in setting appropriate conditions and safeguard in harmony with the general purpose and intent of the applicable zoning code (see Matter of Rock of Salvation Church v Village of Sleepy Hollow Planning Bd., 166 AD3d 985, 986; Matter of Valentine v McLaughlin, 87 AD3d 1155, 1157; see also Code of the Village of Florida § 119-34). Where a planning board’s decision has a rational basis in the record, a court may not substitute its own judgment, even where the evidence could support a different conclusion, and judicial review is limited to determining whether the action taken by the planning board was illegal, arbitrary, or an abuse of discretion…”.

It would seem requiring a survey of the property, for which a site plan is sought, is a rational condition.

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