The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM C. CONNER
Plaintiff Somers Realty Corp. ("SRC") brings this action against William Harding, individually and as Supervisor of the Town of Somers, New York, and the current members of the Somers, New York Town Board (the "council members"), both individually and as town officials, for violating 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
On April 21, 1995, we issued an order directing defendants to show cause at a hearing on May 3, 1995 why a preliminary injunction should not be granted enjoining enforcement of an Interim Development Law (the "IDL") enacted by the Somers Town Board on April 6, 1995 pending a trial on the merits of plaintiff's claims. After reviewing the testimony and evidence presented at the two-day hearing, we deny plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction.
Plaintiff, a closely held New York corporation owned by Joseph and Cataldo (Al) Capozza, owns several parcels of land in and around Somers, New York. In June 1994, SRC entered into a contract for the sale and commercial development of land located in the northeast quadrant of Somers (the "SRC Tract"). In anticipation of developing the SRC Tract into a large, multi-use shopping center, in January 1995 the buyer/developer, Hampshire Realty Corp. ("HRC"), submitted a plan to the Town Board for approval.
Shortly thereafter, Supervisor Harding proposed the enactment of a moratorium on Town Board consideration of development within Somers. After March 16 and April 6, 1995 hearings to address publicly the advisability of adopting the moratorium legislation, the Board voted unanimously to enact Harding's proposal, substantially embodied in the IDL. That law, made effective in mid-April 1995, places a six-month moratorium on Board consideration of applications for preliminary subdivision plat approvals, applications for site plan approvals, and applications for special exception use permits unless the Board, after receipt of the report and recommendation of the town's planning consultant, determines that any such application is consistent with the 1994 Comprehensive Master Plan of the Town of Somers (the "Master Plan"). Town of Somers, NY, Interim Development Law § III(A)(1)-(4) (April 6, 1995). In addition, the law allows the Board to modify or vary the moratorium as required to alleviate an economic or personal hardship. Any application requesting such relief (a "Hardship Appeal") is first referred to the town planning consultant to determine the effect of the variance on the Master Plan and must be finally decided by the Board within ninety days of the application. Id. at § IV.
Fearing that a six-month delay in the Board's consideration of HRC's proposed development will effectively scuttle HRC's development Plans and permit HRC to "walk away from" the sales contract, plaintiff has filed this law suit to enjoin enforcement of the IDL and for damages associated with its enactment. Suing under section 1983, plaintiff claims that the IDL, while valid on its face, violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution, and analogous provisions of the New York State Constitution,
as applied to plaintiff because it was enacted primarily in retaliation for Joseph Capozza's political opposition and public statements against Harding and Harding's wife. Moreover, plaintiff asserts that if the moratorium is not enjoined, it will lose its current contract with HRC, it will be unable to sell the SRC Tract to future developers, and its goodwill will be irreparably damaged, resulting in plaintiff's financial ruin.
On May 3 and May 8, 1995, the Court held a hearing to determine the propriety of granting plaintiff's request for a preliminary injunction. At that hearing, plaintiff presented testimony and evidence attempting to demonstrate the retaliatory purpose behind the IDL's enactment, and the harm that plaintiff will suffer due to its enforcement. Although many witnesses testified on a variety of issues, the following facts are most important for our consideration.
First, regarding the law's unstated purpose, Joseph Capozza testified that a personal animus between him and Harding and defendant Patrick DeSena, a council member, going as far back as 1987, was the primary motive for the Board's passage of the IDL. In particular, Capozza stated that as a council member in 1987
he had actively sought to have Diana Harding, William Harding's wife, removed from the Somers' Conservation Advisory Council for certain improprieties while acting as chairperson of that body. In a four-to-one vote, with DeSena the lone dissenter, the Board voted against her reappointment.
In 1989, again Capozza actively campaigned against Harding's reelection bid and served as an advisor, campaigner, strategist and fund raiser to defendant Michael DePaoli, Harding's primary opponent. Although Harding ultimately succeeded at the general election, Capozza claims that Harding bears significant resentment toward him for his involvement in forcing Harding to run a primary campaign.
Against this backdrop, and in furtherance of the ongoing feud between the Joseph Capozza and Harding, plaintiff claims that Harding and his co-defendants have repeatedly adopted and/or proposed the adoption of legislation which targeted Capozza-owned real property holdings and impeded their development.
First, Joseph Capozza cited the Board's decision to create a new sewer district adjacent to the SRC Tract as evidence of its intent to retaliate against Capozza for his past political activity. By deliberately restricting the size of the sewer line running along side the SRC Tract, ...