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DEVINE v. VILLAGE OF PORT JEFFERSON

April 26, 1994

MICHAEL V. DEVINE and ELIZABETH DEVINE, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF PORT JEFFERSON, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEONARD D. WEXLER

 WEXLER, District Judge

 Michael V. Devine and Elizabeth Devine, plaintiffs in the above-referenced action, brought suit against the Village of Port Jefferson ("Port Jefferson" or the "Village"), the Board of Trustees of the Village of Port Jefferson and individual members of the Board of Trustees in both their official and individual capacities alleging that defendants violated their due process, equal protection and contract clause rights when they closed certain roads in the subdivision where plaintiffs live, roads in which plaintiffs were allegedly granted an easement. Plaintiffs also complain that their rights were violated when defendants opened certain roads in the subdivision to the general public which in the past had only been accessible to residents of the subdivision. Finally, Michael Devine claims that his first amendment rights were violated when at a village meeting he was threatened with arrest if he continued to speak out against defendants' action. Presently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment and plaintiffs' cross-motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted in full and plaintiffs' motion is denied.

 1. BACKGROUND

 On March 23, 1988, the Devine's purchased a lot in the Port Jefferson Landing Subdivision (the "subdivision"). Their lot abuts a road known as Jefferson Landing Circle which travels around the circumference of the subdivision and provides a means of ingress and egress for the subdivision. *fn1" Three roads intersect with Jefferson Landing Circle which provide alternate means into and out of the subdivision.

 Plaintiffs claim that the builder of the subdivision (the "builder") granted them certain easements in these three roads. Plaintiffs' deed refers to subdivision map 7789 which was approved by the Village and filed with the County Clerk of Suffolk County in 1984. That map contained the following handwritten notation which plaintiffs claim gave rise to their easements:

 
PINE TREE COURT, ELLEN DRIVE, & RED OAK COURT WILL BE PROVIDED WITH HALF THE PAVING WIDTH (15LF) ONLY AND DROP CURBS INSTALLED AT THEIR INTERSECTION WITH JEFFERSON LANDING CIRCLE FOR LIMITED HOMEOWNER ACCESS
 
LOTS ON THIS SUBDIVISION SHALL NOT BE FURTHER SUBDIVIDED
 
20 SCALE GRADING PLANS TO BE REQUIRED ON ALL NEW CONSTRUCTION & FOR CONSTRUCTION OF POOLS & OTHER [unintelligible]

 When plaintiffs brought their property, Pine Tree Court, Ellen Drive and Red Oak Court were accessible only to the homeowners in the subdivision. Apparently, the owner of the subdivision placed fencing at the mouth of these streets allowing only the residents of the subdivision access. Indeed, this type of fencing is indicated on map 7789 and plaintiffs claim that reference in the map to this fencing gave rise to a negative easement by the builder in favor of plaintiffs and other subdivision residents. In 1991, the Village Board of Trustees accepted dedication of the subdivision. *fn2" On October 10, 1991, the Village closed Red Oak Drive and Ellen Drive and at the same time opened Pine Tree Court to the general population.

 The Village argues that it chose to close two of the streets because it was concerned that it would open itself up to liability if it permitted continued access on these unimproved roads. It further argues that it opened Pine Tree Court to the public because under Village law a subdivision this size requires more than one means of entrance or exit. The Village also received warnings from its Fire Department that more than one thoroughfare into the subdivision was necessary in case of an emergency.

 Plaintiffs argue that other subdivisions in the Village have only one means of ingress and egress and that the Village in those instances have not required that those subdivisions open roads to the public. Moreover, plaintiffs also claim that the Village has violated its own ordinances by opening a road that does not meet its own safety code.

 In addition to complaining about the opening and closing of these three roads, Michael Devine alleges that his first amendment rights were violated when the Mayor of the Village threatened him with arrest at a public meeting when he was attempting to air his views regarding defendants' action. In response, defendants have submitted the minutes of meetings reflecting that Michael Devine was permitted to speak out against the Village's action with respect to the subdivision on more than one occasion. Moreover, the Mayor of the Village has also submitted an affidavit stating that it was only after Devine became disruptive at the public meeting, raising his voice, interrogating Board members and not permitting other members of the community an opportunity to speak or the public officials to complete their business did he refuse anymore input from Devine. The Mayor, ...


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