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PENLYN DEVELOPMENT v. VILLAGE OF LLOYD HARBOR

June 16, 1999

PENLYN DEVELOPMENT CORP., PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF LLOYD HARBOR, THE PLANING BOARD OF THE VILLAGE OF LLOYD HARBOR, AND DUNCAN ELDER, GILBERT HENOCH, DUDLEY KEYES, ROBERT MANIELLO, AND JOAN WESTPHAL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR PRESENT OR FORMER OFFICIAL CAPACITIES AS MEMBERS OF THE PLANNING BOARD OF THE INCORPORATED VILLAGE OF LLOYD HARBOR, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

On September 16, 1996 the plaintiff, Penlyn Development Corporation ("Penlyn"), filed a complaint against the defendants, the Incorporated Village of Lloyd Harbor (the "Village"), and various Planing Board members of the Village (the "individual board members"), in their individual and official capacities (collectively, the "defendants"), alleging that they persistently and irrationally refused to permit the subdivision by Penlyn of a 6.8 acre parcel of land (the "Subject Premises") on Banbury lane in the Village into three lots of at least two acres each, in violation of its substantive due process and equal protection rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 1985, 1988 and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Presently before the Court is the defendants' motion for summary judgment, seeking to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ.P.").

I. BACKGROUND

Penlyn is the owner of a 6.8 acre residential parcel located on Banbury Lane, Village of Lloyd Harbor, County of Suffolk, State of New York. The Planning Board of the Village is the administrative body charged by the New York State Village Law and the Village Code with the duty to hear and determine applications for the approval of preliminary and final subdivisions and partitioning plats. Zoning within the Village requires lots of at least two acres.

On November 25, 1994, the plaintiff submitted to the Planning Board an application for preliminary approval of the partitioning of the Subject Premises into three separate lots, each equal to or greater than two acres in area and each fronting on Banbury Lane. On December 20, 1994 in connection with its application, the plaintiff submitted to the Planning Board a map of the Subject Premises labeled "Final Partitioning Plat." The Proposed plat was later revised on January 5 and January 12, 1995. On March 7, 1995, a public hearing was held in connection with the plaintiff's application. Strong opposition by neighbors of the Subject Premises was voiced. The plaintiff asserts that at the hearing, it presented proof that the partitioning satisfied all of the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance and all of the standards set forth in the Subdivision Regulations of the Village. At the conclusion of the proceeding, the public hearing was closed by a vote of the Planning Board.

On May 11, 1995, pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA"), the Planning Board issued a "negative declaration" whereby it determined "that the proposed action . . . will not have a significant effect on the environment and that a Draft Environment Impact Statement will not be prepared." On June 1, 1995, the Planning Board and the plaintiff stipulated that the time within which the Planning Board was required to act upon the plaintiff's application for partitioning approval would expire on July 12, 1995. As such, the plaintiff's application was placed on the Planning Board's agenda for a meeting to be conducted on the evening of July 12, 1995.

At the meeting, on that date, the Planning Board called the plaintiff's application and announced that it was reserving decision. Approximately one week later, the Planning Board filed with the Village Clerk a one-page document that indicated that the plaintiff's application was "denied upon grounds of existing Village determination of no further subdivision." On August 21, 1995, a formal resolution of the Planning Board (the "1995 Determination") denying the plaintiff's partitioning application was filed with the Village Clerk. The 1995 Determination was predicated upon a decision made by the Planning Board 20 years earlier in connection with the subdivision of an 18-acre parcel known as "Woodwynne," of which the Subject Premises were a part. According to the 1995 Determination, the prior planning board decision precluded future development of Woodwynne in exchange for approval of access by means of a substandard roadway. The denial was also predicated upon the absence of any change of circumstance that would warrant relief from the foregoing restriction.

On August 7, 1995, the plaintiff commenced an Article 78 proceeding against the Planning Board and the Clerk of the Village in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Suffolk seeking judgment:

  (a) directing the Clerk of the Village of Lloyd
  Harbor to issue a certificate confirming that
  petitioner's application for the partitioning of its
  land in the Village had been granted on default by
  reason of the failure of the Planning Board to take
  action upon such application within the time limited
  by village law § 7728(6), or, in the alternative,

On January 31, 1996, the State Court denied the plaintiff's request for a certificate of default and the plaintiff's request that the Court direct the Planning Board grant its application. The Supreme Court did, however, annul the determination of the Planning Board as arbitrary and capricious. Specifically, the State Court held that:

  [t]he determination of respondent Board in this
  matter, is considered to have been arbitrary and
  capricious in that it did not take into account the
  changed conditions in the use of Banbury Lane, and
  further that it assumed an unchangeability of its
  prior decision with respect to the subject premises,
  despite the fact that the restrictions were not
  premised on any type of legislative enactments.
  The subject determinations of the ZBA is annulled and
  set aside and this matter is remanded to the Village
  Planning Board for a de novo consideration of
  petitioner's application for preliminary plat
  approval.

By judgment, entered on March 29, 1996, the Supreme Court remanded the proceeding to the Planning Board "for a de novo determination of petitioner's application for preliminary partitioning approval not inconsistent with the written decision of this Court." On May 9, 1996 a public hearing was conducted and the Planning Board once again voted to deny the plaintiff's application upon the grounds that (a) the road giving access to the Subject Premises was paved to a width less than that required by the Village's Planning Regulations, pursuant to a purported understanding with the developer of Woodwynne that the 18-acre parcel would not be further subdivided; (b) there had been no change in the use of the portion of the road upon which the Subject Premises front; and (c) the continued "inadequacy" of the road was sufficient reason for the Board to adhere to its determination barring further subdivision of any portion of Woodwynne.

The plaintiff contends that prior to the rendering of the Planing Board's May 9, 1996 decision, it highlighted the fact that there were stretches of Banbury Road east of the Laboratory that were at least as narrow as the portion of the Banbury Road at issue, and that the Planning Board could grant preliminary partitioning approval conditioned upon the widening of the pavement within the 50-foot Woodwynne right of way. However, according to the plaintiff, the Planning Board refused to consider this condition and suggested that it was "not part of the application before us."

On May 13, 1996, a formal resolution of the Planning Board (the "1996 Determination") denying the plaintiff's partitioning application was filed with the Village Clerk. The 1996 Determination stated that:

  14. Access to the premises is over a roadway
  approximately 14.5 feet wide rather than the required
  18 feet, which substandard road was permitted by
  prior Planning Board decisions in 1972, 1975 and 1977
  at the request of the property owner at that time
  together with the voluntarily imposed restriction
  that no more than five (5) lots be permitted over the
  substandard roadway.
  15. Without regard to the prior restriction, it is
  clear that access to the premises is over a
  substandard roadway and is inadequate to provide
  access for the proposed additional lots.
  17. Though the Applicant has claimed a change in
  traffic and use in the roadway serving the premises
  as a consequence of the use of the roadway by the
  Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory adjacent to its
  property, access to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
  property occurs at a point on Banbury Lane east of
  the subject property and before reaching the subject
  parcel. There has been no increased traffic or
  increased use of that portion of Banbury Lane over
  which the subject parcel proposes its access either
  as a consequence of the Cold Spring Harbor property
  or any other adjacent property.

The plaintiff argues that the 1996 Determination, like the 1995 Determination, was grounded upon the Planning Board's belief that a prior planning board precluded future development of Woodwynne in exchange for approval of access by means of a substandard roadway, and upon the absence of any change of circumstances that would warrant relief from the foregoing restriction. As a result, the plaintiff contends that the Planning Board failed to carry out the mandate of the State Court to render "a de novo determination of petitioner's application for preliminary approval not inconsistent with the written decision of [the] Court."

In addition, the plaintiff claims that to the extent the 1996 Determination was based upon a finding that "access to the premises is over a substandard roadway" that is "inadequate ...


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