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LUEDEKE v. VILLAGE OF NEW PALTZ
August 27, 1999
BILL LUEDEKE, PLAINTIFF,
VILLAGE OF NEW PALTZ AND ALISON MURRAY, DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: McAVOY, Chief Judge.
MEMORANDUM — DECISION & ORDER
Plaintiff Bill Luedeke commenced the instant litigation against
Defendants Village of New Paltz and Alison Murray (collectively
"defendants") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 arising out of
defendants' issuance of snow removal fines to plaintiff, the
placement of a lien on his property, and their subsequent
intention to sell his home at a tax sale in satisfaction of such
fines. Presently before the Court are defendants' motion for
summary judgment pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 56 seeking dismissal of
the Complaint in its entirety, and plaintiff's cross-motion for
summary judgment pursuant to FED.R.CIV.P. 56 seeking judgment on
his Complaint as a matter of law.
The facts surrounding the instant litigation are undisputed.
Plaintiff owns a home and property at 66 South Chestnut Street in
the Village of New Paltz (the "Village"), State of New York (the
"State"). Plaintiff's property is on the east side of South
Chestnut Street. South Chestnut Street is the local name for
State Route 208. The State of New York owns the property
consisting of Route 208, the sidewalk on the east side of Route
208, plus an additional eight feet east of the sidewalk.
The Village has a snow removal ordinance (the "ordinance") that
requires "[t]he owner or occupant of any real property . . .
abutting any sidewalk . . . [to] keep such sidewalk free and
clear of snow and ice at all times." VILLAGE OF NEW PALTZ
MUN.CODE § 44.22(a). Specifically, property owners are required
to remove snow and ice from the sidewalk within twenty-four hours
"after cessation of every fall of snow or formation of ice on the
sidewalk abutting the premises." Id., at 44.22(b). Pursuant to
If snow or ice shall remain on a sidewalk for more
than twenty-four (24) hours after the cessation of
snowfall or the formation of ice, the Village may
provide for the removal thereof at the expense of the
owner . . . of the abutting premises. . . . The
Village Treasurer shall send a statement to the owner
. . . of the premises abutting the sidewalk from
which the snow or ice shall [not] have been removed.
If the charge is not paid, it shall be a lien upon
the premises abutting the sidewalk and shall be
collected by the Village Treasurer as an assessment
upon said premises on the real property tax
statements. . . .
Although plaintiff usually cleared the sidewalk in front of his
property, there came a point in time when he discontinued doing
so. As a result, the Village had the snow removed and, pursuant
to the Village Code, billed plaintiff for the costs of such
removal. Plaintiff was billed a total of five times for snow
removal during the period of 1995 through 1998.
In the winter of 1995-1996, plaintiff was assessed $55.49 for
snow removal. Plaintiff paid this charge "under protest." On
December 9, 1996, the Village removed snow from the sidewalk in
front of plaintiff's property and billed him $70.03. The bill
contained a notice that "if this charge is not paid by April 15,
1997, it will become a lien upon the premises . . . and collected
on the Real Property Tax Statement next coming due." Def.Ex. H.
Plaintiff failed to pay the $70.03, and the charge, therefore,
appeared on his 1997 Statement of Village Taxes. See Def.Ex. I.
On that same day, plaintiff showed Defendant Alison Murray
("Murray"), Code Enforcement Officer for the Village, a copy of
his survey that demonstrated that his property boundary ended
several feet east of the sidewalk. According to plaintiff, this
conclusively demonstrated that he was not subject to the snow
removal ordinance because his property did not abut the sidewalk;
rather, the State's property abutted the sidewalk. Murray
conferred with the Village Attorney and Village Mayor, who
advised that plaintiff had an obligation to clear the sidewalk
pursuant to the ordinance.
On January 26, 1998, the Village sent plaintiff a letter
advising him that "the 1997 Village taxes on . . . [his] property
are still outstanding . . . [and that] [f]ailure to pay these
taxes by February 13th[,]  will result in them being
advertised as unpaid in preparation for the March tax sale."
Plaintiff continued to refuse to pay the snow removal charge
until he was advised by his mortgage lender that "[i]f payment is
not remitted within twenty-nine (29) days of the date of this
letter, [we] will have no alternative but to remit payment for
these taxes in accordance with your mortgage agreement . . . [and
establish] a tax escrow account." Def.Ex. L. Plaintiff paid the
outstanding assessments "under protest," and his property was not
sold at a tax sale.
Plaintiff commenced the instant litigation pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming that the snow removal ordinance deprived
him of his due process rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth
Amendment to the United States Constitution. Currently before the
Court are defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to
FED. R.CIV.P. 56 seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its
entirety, and ...