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Firetree, Ltd. et al v. Town of Colonie et al

October 9, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe Chief Judge


I. Introduction

Plaintiffs Firetree, Ltd. and Orange Stones Company (collectively "Firetree") commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants Town of Colonie, New York, Joseph LaCivita, Michael M. Rosch, Michael J. Lyons, Michael C. Magguilli and Paula A. Mahan (collectively "Colonie defendants"), alleging violations of their First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Pending are Colonie defendants' motion for summary judgment and Firetree's cross-motion to amend to its Complaint. (See Dkt. Nos. 65, 66.) For the reasons that follow, Colonie defendants' motion is granted and Firetree's motion is denied.

II. Background*fn1

Firetree, Ltd. and Orange Stones Company are separate non-profit Pennsylvania corporations who bid for, and then operate, residential re-entry facilities under contracts with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). (See Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (SMF) ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 65, Attach. 1; Dkt. No. 66 ¶ 1.) In April 2007, Firetree agreed to "purchase the land and a structure at 875 Old Albany Shaker Road, located in the Town of Colonie, contingent upon the awarding of a contract by the [BOP]." (Defs.' SMF ¶ 2.) Before closing on the property, Firetree applied to the Building Department of the Town of Colonie for a commercial zoning verification (CZV) in order to construct a new building on the site.*fn2 (See id. ¶ 3.) The application, which was dated May 25, 2007, states that the new building would be a "Correctional Facility." (Id.) Specifically, the narrative explains that the "community corrections facility" is a secure facility, and articulates the relevant security provisions. (Dkt. No. 63, Attach. 1 at 21.) Based on this proposed use, the Building Department approved the application. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 3.) Though Firetree never sought a building permit to begin construction, it closed on the property in January 2008. (See id.)

Thereafter, Firetree changed its plan and decided to modify the existing structure, as this would only require Minor Site Plan Review. (See Compl. ¶¶ 20-21.) Because of this change, Firetree was informed that it needed to apply for a new CZV. (See id. ¶ 22; Answer ¶ 9, Dkt. No. 8.) It did so on July 22, 2008, again describing the proposed use as a "Correctional Facility." (Defs.' SMF ¶ 4.) Notably, this application did not contain the same description of the facility; instead, the narrative states that the building will be "a community re-entry center, which is a transitional correctional facility." (Dkt. No. 63, Attach. 1 at 23.) Nevertheless, the Building Department approved this CZV roughly one week later. (Defs.' SMF ¶ 4.)

After receiving the CZV, Firetree submitted its Minor Site Plan application to the Colonie Department of Planning and Economic Development (PEDD). (See id. ¶ 7.) "Various Town departments, as well as Albany County and the FAA, were engaged in reviewing aspects of the project over the next few months." (Id. ¶ 7.) In addition, the PEDD sought additional information from Firetree to complete its review. (See id.) Though Colonie defendants claim the application was never deemed complete, (see id.), defendant LaCivita, the Director of the PEDD, stated that Firetree's application was finalized as of April 20, 2009, (see Dkt. No. 65, Attach. 4 ¶ 19). Albeit final, the application was never referred to the Planning Board for consideration. (See Defs.' SMF ¶ 7.) Likewise, the building permit Firetree applied for on March 6, 2009 was not issued. (See id. ¶ 8; Dkt. No. 66 ¶ 8.) According to Firetree, the delay in considering its application, as well as the denial of its building permit, led it to conclude that the application would not be considered in a timely manner. (See Compl. ¶¶ 27-43.) Thus, on May 1, 2009, Firetree sent a letter to defendant Maggiulli, the town attorney, in which it advised that it was "contemplating legal proceedings to challenge the unwarranted and illegal delays." (Id. ¶ 44.)

Ultimately, both the May 25, 2007 and July 28, 2008 CZVs were rescinded by defendant Rosch, the head of the Building Department, in separate letters in May 2009. (See Defs.' SMF ¶ 9.) Firetree claims that Rosch's first recision on May 5, 2009 was immaterial as its initial CZV expired on May 25, 2008. (See Dkt. No. 66 ¶ 9.) However, after receiving this letter, Firetree commenced an Article 78 proceeding to compel Colonie to rule on its Minor Site Plan application. (See Defs.' SMF ¶ 10; Dkt. No. 66 ¶ 10.) Firetree served its petition on Colonie on May 11, 2009; the next day, Rosch issued his second letter in which he rescinded the July 28, 2008 CZV. (See Compl. ¶¶ 48-49.) In a decision dated January 7, 2010, the state court dismissed Firetree's petition, finding that Rosch possessed the authority to rescind the CZVs, and moreover, that Firetree's failure to appeal Rosch's decision to the Zoning Board of Appeals precluded judicial review. (See Dkt. No. 56, Attach. 1 at 3-4.) Citing its inability to fulfill the obligations of the contract with BOP, Firetree voluntarily withdrew its appeal of the state court decision, and did not resubmit its application to the town. (See Compl. ¶¶ 73-76; Defs.' SMF ¶ 10.)

Firetree now alleges three causes of action: (1) deprivation of property without due process of law; (2) deprivation of property without just compensation; and (3) First Amendment retaliation. (See Defs.' SMF ¶ 12.)

III. Standard of Review

The standard of review under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard, the court refers the parties to its decision in Wagner v. Swarts, 827 F. Supp. 2d 85, 92 (N.D.N.Y. 2011).

IV. Discussion*fn3

Colonie defendants argue that Firetree's Complaint should be dismissed because its Fifth Amendment claim is not ripe; it has no vested property interest in the approval of its Minor Site Plan application; and its retaliation claim fails as a matter of law.*fn4 (See Dkt. No. 65, Attach. 3 at 2-8, 10-12.) In addition to refuting Colonie defendants' assertions, Firetree's response includes a cross motion to amend, in which it seeks to add a cause of action under the Equal Protection Clause. ...

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