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Toussie v. Town Board of the Town of East Hampton

February 17, 2010

ROBERT I. TOUSSIE AND LAURA TOUSSIE LTD., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF EAST HAMPTON AND TOWN OF EAST HAMPTON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hurley, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Plaintiffs Robert I. Toussie and Laura Toussie, Ltd. ("Plaintiffs") commenced this action asserting claims for relief against defendants the Town Board of the Town of East Hampton and the Town of East Hampton (collectively "Defendants" or "Town") in connection with the Town's enactment of Local Law 16 of 2005, which upzoned a certain parcel of property owned by Plaintiffs from 2-acre to 5-acre zoning. Plaintiffs assert that the upzoning violated their equal protection rights. They also maintain that Local Law 16 of 2005 is void as the Town did not comply with New York General Municipal Law §239-m ("Municipal Law 239-m"). Presently before the Court is the Town's motion to dismiss the amended complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below the motion is granted.

Background

The Amended Complaint ("AC") contains the following allegations: Plaintiffs own an approximately 15.1 acre parcel of undeveloped property located on Manor Lane, East Hampton and designated on Suffolk County Tax Map as District 300, Section 63, Block 4, Lot 9 (the " Manor Lane Property"). Prior to the Town's adoption of Local Law 16 of 2005 ("Law 16-2005"), the Town had been actively seeking to purchase the Manor Lane Property, tendering numerous steadily increasing offers, all of which were rejected as inadequate. Prior to the adoption of Law 16-2005, the Manor Lane Property was in a residential zone which allowed for a minimum lot size of 2 acres per parcel and therefore could have been subdivided into approximately 7 building lots. (AC ¶¶ 10-13.)

The Manor Lane Property is adjoined by a "similar" parcel of undeveloped real property, known as Briar Croft Section 3 and designated on Suffolk County Tax Map as District 300, Section 63, Block 4, Lot 8.8 (the "Briar Property"). Prior to the adoption of Law 16-2005, the Briar Property was also in a residential zone which allowed for a minimum lot size of 2 acres per parcel. (AC ¶ 14.)

The Briar Property and the Manor Lane Property were both initially selected by the Town for upzoning to an increased minimum five acre lot size in the draft version of Law 16-2005. (AC ¶ 15.) In the adopted version of Law 16-2005 the Briar Property "was selectively upzoned to a more favorable three acre minimum lot size zoning requirement, while the Manor Lane Property, which [P]laintiffs refused to sell to [the Town] for their increasing offer prices, was, upon information and belief, intentionally, and with ill will and illegitimate animus, singled out for selective upzoning to a more onerous five acre minimum lot size zoning requirement as a result of the adoption [of Law 16-2005]. (Id. ¶ 16.)

Asserting that "[t]here is no rational or proper governmental basis for the different treatment" accorded by the Town to the Manor Lane Property as opposed to the Briar Property, Plaintiffs claim that the Town has "maliciously, intentionally, and with ill-will adopted a policy and practice to deprive [P]laintiffs of their constitutional rights to equal protection . . . ." (AC ¶¶ 18-19.)

Law 16-2005 was subject to the referral requirements of Municipal Law 239-m. As such, 30 days prior to taking final action to enact it, the Town was "required to deliver to the Suffolk County Department of Planning a full statement of the proposed action, constituting, among other things, all material required by and submitted to [the Town] as an application on the proposed action, the complete text of the proposed local law to be enacted, and all materials required by [the Town] in order to make [its] determination of significance pursuant to New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) under Article Eight of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law and its implementing regulations." It is alleged that the Town did not comply with Municipal Law 239-m in that it did not deliver to the Suffolk County Department of Planning 30 days prior to Law 16-2005's enactment "several material documents including the final version and complete text of the proposed local law and the associated Comprehensive Plan or the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement . . . " and therefore Law 16-2005 is void ab initio. (AC ¶¶ 22-26.)

Discussion

I. Motion to Dismiss: Legal Standards

Rule 8(a) provides that a pleading shall contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court has recently clarified the pleading standard applicable in evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).

First, in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the Court disavowed the well-known statement in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." 550 U.S. at 562. Instead, to survive a motion to dismiss under Twombly, a plaintiff must allege "only enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Id. at 555 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).

More recently, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -- U.S. --, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), the Supreme Court provided further guidance, setting forth a two-pronged approach for courts deciding a motion to dismiss. First, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 1950. "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual assumptions." Id. Thus, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

Second, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 1950. The Court defined plausibility as follows:

A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement," but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully. Where a complaint pleads facts that are "merely consistent with" a defendant's liability, it "stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of 'entitlement to relief.'"

Id. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57) (internal citations omitted).

In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court generally may only consider facts stated in the complaint or "[d]ocuments that are attached to the complaint or incorporated in it by reference." Roth v. Jennings, 489 F.3d 499, 509 (2d Cir. 2007); Gillingham v. Geico Direct, 2008 WL 189671, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2008) (same). A document not appended to the complaint may be considered if the document is "incorporated [in the complaint] by reference" or is a document "upon which [the complaint] solely relies and . . . is integral to the complaint." Roth, 489 F.3d at 509 (quoting Cortec Indus., Inc. v. Sum Holding L.P., 949 F.2d 42, 47 (2d Cir. 1991)) (emphasis in the original).

A district court may also "rely on matters of public record in deciding a motion to dismiss under [R]ule 12(b)(6)." Parks v. Town of Greenburgh, 2009 WL 2628516, at *2 (2d Cir. Aug. 27, 2009) (Summary Order); Pani v. Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, 152 F.3d 67, 75 (2d Cir. 1998) ("It is well established that a district court may rely on matters of public record in deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)"); Kramer v. Time Warner Inc., 937 F.2d 767, 774 (2d Cir. 1991) (district court may examine public disclosure documents on 12(b)(6) motion); see also Blue Tree Hotels Inv. (Can.), Ltd. v. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., 369 F.3d 212, 217 (2d Cir. 2004). Finally, in certain circumstances "when a plaintiff chooses not to attach to the complaint or incorporate by reference a [document] . . . which is integral to the complaint, the defendant may produce [it] when attacking the complaint for its failure to state a claim, because plaintiff should not be allowed to escape the consequences of its own failure." Cortec Indus., 949 F.2d at 47.

II. Additional Materials Submitted by the Town

Defendant has presented to the Court additional materials relative to the merits of Plaintiffs' claims, some of which are documents upon which Plaintiffs solely relied in bringing this action and are integral to the Complaint, or are matters of public record, and some of which ...


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