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RAMAPO HOMEOWNERS' v. OFFICE OF MENTAL RETARD.
January 16, 2002
THE RAMAPO HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION, AN UNINCORPORATED ASSOCIATION OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, PLAINTIFF,
NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF MENTAL RETARDATION AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, THOMAS G. MAUL, NEW YORK STATE COMMISSIONER OF THE OFFICE OF MENTAL RETARDATION AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, AND PROVIDER HAMASPIK OF ROCKLAND COUNTY, INC., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stein, District Judge.
The State of New York has a policy favoring the placement of
mentally and developmentally disabled persons in small community
residences which are operated by the New York State Office of
Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities or by private
sponsoring agencies under that agency's aegis. See Jennings v.
New York State Office of Mental Health, 90 N.Y.2d 227, 233-34,
682 N.E.2d 953, 660 N.Y.S.2d 352 (1997); Crane Neck Ass'n v.
New York City/Long Island County Servs. Group, 61 N.Y.2d 154,
160-61, 460 N.E.2d 1336, 472 N.Y.S.2d 901 (1984). That policy is
implemented, in part, by N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law § 41.34, which
is known as the Padavan Law. See Crane Neck, 61 N.Y.2d at 162,
472 N.Y.S.2d 901, 460 N.E.2d 1336. The Padavan Law establishes
the procedures used to determine where community residential
facilities, in which up to fourteen disabled persons, including
children and youth, can live and receive treatment, are to be
located. See id. The law's provisions were designed "to
provide for a fair distribution of community residences and to
bring municipalities into the process of site selection, thereby
minimizing resistance and avoiding legal battles that had
impeded the community residence [policy]." Id. at 163,
472 N.Y.S.2d 901, 460 N.E.2d 1336. As this action as well as others
suggest, "this goal has not always been met." De
Jesus-Keolamphu v. Village of Pelham Manor, 999 F. Supp. 556,
560 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 166 F.3d 1199 (2d Cir. 1998).
Pursuant to the Padavan Law, a sponsoring agency that intends
to establish a community residence at a specific site must
notify the chief executive officer of the municipality within
whose borders the site lies. See N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law §
41.34(c)(1). The municipality then has forty days to either
approve the recommended site, suggest other suitable sites
within its jurisdiction, or object to the establishment of the
facility on the ground that the municipality is already
saturated with similar facilities. See N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law
§ 41.34(c)(1)(A)-(C); see also Jennings, 90 N.Y.2d at 240,
660 N.Y.S.2d 352, 682 N.E.2d 953. The municipality is authorized to
hold a public hearing prior to making its decision. See N.Y.
Mental Hygiene Law § 41.34(c)(2).
If the sponsoring agency and the municipality do not agree on
a suitable site, either party can request an immediate hearing
before the Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental
Retardation and Developmental Disabilities to resolve the
dispute. See N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law § 41.34(c)(5); see also
Jennings, 90 N.Y.2d at 240, 660 N.Y.S.2d 352, 682 N.E.2d 953.
The Commissioner, after considering "the need for such
facilities in the municipality" and the "existing concentration"
of similar facilities "in the municipality or in the area in
proximity to the site selected," "shall sustain [a
municipality's] objection if he determines that the nature and
character of the area in which the facility is to be based would
be substantially altered as a result of the establishment of the
facility." N.Y. Mental Hygiene Law § 41.34(c)(5); see also
Jennings, 90 N.Y.2d at 240-41, 660 N.Y.S.2d 352,
682 N.E.2d 953. A disappointed party — including a neighboring landowner —
may seek review of the Commissioner's
determination in a proceeding brought in New York State court
pursuant to Article 78 of the N.Y. C.P.L.R. See N.Y. Mental
Hygiene Law § 41.34(d); Talisman Drive Civic Ass'n v. Webb,
138 A.D.2d 610, 610, 526 N.Y.S.2d 193 (2d Dep't 1988) (citing
Grasmere Homeowners' Ass'n v. Introne, 84 A.D.2d 778, 778,
443 N.Y.S.2d 956 (2d Dep't 1981)).
II. Selection of the 68 East Concord Drive Site
In September 2000, defendant Provider Hamaspik of Rockland
County, Inc., a not-for-profit agency that operates community
residences for the disabled, notified the Town of Ramapo that it
intended to establish a community residence for eight
developmentally disabled adults at 68 East Concord Drive in that
town. (Compl. ¶ 9, Ex. A.) Ramapo's site selection committee
then mailed notices to those residents who lived near the site
and, after holding a hearing on Hamaspik's proposal, recommended
to the Ramapo Town Board that it approve it. (Compl. ¶¶ 11-12,
Exs.D, E.) Plaintiff, the Ramapo Homeowners' Association, a
group of homeowners living near 68 East Concord Drive, urged the
Town Board to reject the Hamaspik proposal or, at a minimum,
consider alternative sites for the home. (Compl. ¶ 13, Ex. E.)
At a meeting held on November 13, 2000, the Town Board voted to
reject the Hamaspik proposal. (Compl. ¶ 14.)
Hamaspik then requested an immediate hearing before the
Commissioner, defendant Thomas G. Maul, to resolve its dispute
with the Town, as it was permitted to do pursuant to the Padavan
Law. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Before the hearing took place, the
Commissioner denied the Homeowners' Association's attempt to
intervene at the hearing, stating that the Padavan Law did not
recognize any party to the proceeding other than the Town and
the proposed site sponsor. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-17, Exs.F, G.)
At the start of the Commissioner's hearing, which was held at
the Ramapo Town Hall on December 11, 2000, the Town objected to
the Commissioner's decision to deny intervention by the
Homeowners' Association, arguing that the Padavan Law's scheme
was fundamentally unfair and unconstitutional. (Compl. ¶ 18, Ex.
H. at 21-23.) The hearing officer, Nicholas Pagano, Jr., told
the Town attorney that although the Homeowners' Association
could not intervene, Pagano would allow him to delegate any of
his authority at the hearing to the Homeowners' Association's
attorney. (Compl. Ex. H. at 24.) Pagano then took testimony and
evidence from Hamaspik and the Town concerning the need for the
proposed facility and the impact that it would have on the
community. (Compl.Ex. H, ¶ 29.)
Approximately two months later, the Commissioner determined
that he could not sustain the Town's objection to Hamaspik's
proposal to build a residential facility at 68 East Concord
Drive. (Compl. Ex. J.) Rather than file an Article 78 petition
to contest the Commissioner's determination, the Homeowners'
Association then commenced this litigation.
The Homeowners' Association brought this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 on the ground that its members' constitutional
rights have been violated. Specifically, plaintiff claims that
the Commissioner's enforcement of the Padavan Law denies the
"associational and economic liberties" of its members. (Compl. ¶
1.) In addition, because the law itself is "arbitrary" and
"unreasonable," and because it has been enforced in an
"arbitrary" and "unreasonable" manner, Association members have
allegedly been denied "Due Process and
Equal Protection of the Laws" and the "privileges and immunities
of citizenship." (Compl. ¶ 2.) More specifically, the complaint
claims that the law provides no standard, and that no standard
has been established by regulation, that defines the meaning of
the terms "undue concentration," "the nature and character of
the area," "area," "neighborhood," "need," "over-concentration,"
or "substantial alteration." (Compl. ¶¶ 28(d), 31.) As a ...