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KONCELIK, v. TOWN OF EAST HAMPTON

December 24, 1991

LAWRENCE J. AND DORIS W. KONCELIK, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE TOWN OF EAST HAMPTON, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wexler, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Plaintiffs, Lawrence J. and Doris W. Koncelik, ("plaintiffs"), husband and wife, bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Town of East Hampton (the "Town"), the Town Board of East Hampton ("Town Board"), the Town Planning Board of East Hampton ("Planning Board"), the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals ("ZBA"), and unnamed John Doe conspirators Nos. 1 through 10 (collectively "defendants"). Plaintiffs allege violations of their constitutional rights to procedural and substantive due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and further allege a taking of their property without just compensation, also in violation of their Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Presently before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Since 1948, plaintiff Doris Koncelik has owned approximately 17 undivided acres in the Town of East Hampton and both plaintiffs own a contiguous parcel of 1.5 acres. In 1957, the property was subjected to one acre zoning. Later it was re-zoned to two acres and in 1985, just prior to the Town's purchase of the approximately 600 acre Grace Estate (contiguous to plaintiffs' land) as a nature preserve, it was re-zoned to five acres.*fn1

In November 1987, in order to develop her property, Doris Koncelik applied to the ZBA for a variance to have the property divided into four lots. Plaintiffs allege that defendants conspired to deny the requested variance (and later to impose numerous unreasonable easements and other conditions on their approval of the Konceliks' application for a conforming subdivision) in order to prevent the development of the property, thereby effectively increasing the size of the adjacent Grace Estate Town Nature Preserve. More specifically, plaintiffs allege that at closed-door sessions the ZBA received improper and prejudicial input from the Pine Barrens Commission, the Town of East Hampton Department of Planning ("Planning Department") and the Planning Board. On August 3, 1988, on a split vote, the ZBA denied the variance.

Rather than seek judicial review of the ZBA's decision, on November 18, 1988, the Konceliks applied to the Planning Board for a conforming five-acre, three-lot subdivision and for a lot line modification that would join their abutting 1.5 acre lot with the two acres remaining from their proposed subdivision. Without notice to the Konceliks, the Planning Board conducted hearings, made various contradictory findings and recommendations, and suggested numerous easements and other restrictions which severely limited the area in which new housing could be built. The Konceliks hired an environmental expert who studied the property and found that the Planning Board's recommendations and restrictions were all unnecessary, and in some cases environmentally counter-productive.

On April 2, 1990, the Planning Board stated that it would grant conditional approval of the Konceliks' application if the Konceliks agreed to adopt the Planning Board's latest recommendations. The Konceliks rejected those recommendations on April 10, 1990, and insisted that the Planning Board act on the application as submitted. On May 16, 1990, the Planning Board approved the application, but subject to twenty-eight restrictive conditions.

  The Board found that the applicants had complied
  with all statutory requirements for subdivision
  waiver approval. . . . Nevertheless, conditions
  inconsistent with intelligent planning, without
  legitimate governmental or public purposes for
  safety, health, welfare or environmental
  interests, in contravention with the Town Code and
  absent evidence demonstrating necessity were
  imposed. . . . [T]he conditions employed by the
  Planning Board are arbitrary, capricious, improper
  and in excess of the powers delegated.

Koncelik v. Planning Board of the Town of East Hampton and the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of East Hampton, No. 90-12629, (Supreme Court, Suffolk County, Nov. 2, 1990), at pp. 2-3 (unrecorded decision).*fn2 Accordingly, the state court excised all twenty-eight of the Planning Board's conditions. The Planning Board and the ZBA appealed and the Konceliks cross-appealed regarding their ZRA claim. Both appeals are currently before the Appellate Division.

After the appeals were perfected, plaintiffs brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants violated their rights to procedural and substantive due process, and deprived them of their property without just compensation. They seek two million dollars in damages on each of these claims, plus attorney fees.

Defendants suggest that plaintiffs brought this federal suit merely as a means of pressuring them to give up their state court appeal. They move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and, in the alternative, urge this Court to decline jurisdiction due to the pendency of the state action.

II. DISCUSSION

A.  Abstention Doctrine Is Not Applicable

Defendants recognize this Court's jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1343. Nevertheless, they request that this Court abstain from exercising its jurisdiction because of the pending state court appeals. They argue that the state courts can provide plaintiffs with full and complete relief.

Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44, 91 S.Ct. 746, 750, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971) and its progeny have held that principles of federalism and comity require a federal court to decline jurisdiction when it is asked to enjoin certain ongoing state proceedings. See e.g., Huffman v. Pursue, Ltd., 420 U.S. 592, 604, 95 S.Ct. 1200, 1208, 43 L.Ed.2d 482 (1975). In the instant case, however, plaintiffs have already obtained their desired injunctive relief from the state court. This ยง 1983 ...


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