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LLC v. Town of Southampton

United States District Court, E.D. New York

April 8, 2015

545 HALSEY LANE PROPERTIES, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
TOWN OF SOUTHAMPTON; TOWN OF SOUTHAMPTON PLANNING BOARD; DENNIS FINNERTY; JOHN BLANEY; GEORGE SKIDMORE; LARRY TOLER; JOHN ZUCCARELLI; JACQUELINE LOFARO; PHILIP A. KEITH; MICHELE BERKOSKI, in her capacity as a Co-Executor of the Estate of William A. Berkoski, Jr.; JENNIFER L. CARUSO, in her capacity as a Co-Executor of the Estate of William A. Berkoski, Jr.; ROMAN ROTH; THOMAS CONKLIN; WARREN TOPPING (a.k.a JAEGGER TOPPING); ADAM HALSEY; LEE FOSTER; JOHN L. HALSEY; LAWRENCE HALSEY; HENRY KRASZEWSKI; JAMES PIKE; KATHERINE KAZANAS; ANTHONY PIAZZA; ARTHUR LUDLOW; KENNETH TILLOTSON; MICHAEL WESNOFSKE; SUSAN FALKOWSKI PARRY; and JOHN and JANE DOES Nos. 1-6, Defendants.

David Samuel Julian Neufeld, Esq., Denis P. O'Leary, Esq., Of Counsel, Neufeld & O'Leary, Attorneys for the Plaintiff, New York, NY.

David H. Arnsten, Esq., Joshua S. Shteireman, Esq, Of Counsel., Devitt Spellman Barrett, LLP, Attorneys for the Defendants, Smithtown, NY.

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION AND ORDER

ARTHUR D. SPATT, District Judge.

On February 6, 2014, the Plaintiff 545 Halsey Lane Properties, LLC (the "Plaintiff") commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Defendants Town of Southhampton; Town of Southhampton Planning Board (the "Planning Board"); Dennis Finnerty; John Blaney; George Skidmore; Larry Toler; John Zuccarelli; Jacqueline Lofaro; Philip A. Keith; Michele Berkoski, in her capacity as a Co-Executor of the Estate of William A. Berkoski, Jr.; Jennifer L. Caruso, in her capacity as a Co-Executor of the Estate of William A. Berkowski, Jr., Roman Roth; Thomas Conklin; Warren Topping a/k/a/Jaegger Topping; Adam Halsey; Lee Foster; John L. Halsey; Lawrence Halsey; Henry Kraszewski; James Pike; Katherine Kazanas; Anthony Piazza; Arthur Ludlow; Kenneth Tillotson; Michael Wesnofske; Susan Falkowski Parry; and John and Jane Does Nos. 1-6 (collectively the "Defendants"). The Plaintiff challenges two decisions by the Planning Board involving conditional approvals of the Plaintiff's applications for a building permit for the construction of a barn and/or barns on its property.

The Plaintiff also commenced two related state court proceedings pursuant to Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules ("CPLR") to challenge the decisions of the Planning Board as affected by errors of law, arbitrary and capricious decisions, abuses of discretion, and decisions not supported by a rational basis.

By Memorandum of Decision and Order dated August 19, 2014, this Court denied the Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction; failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and, as to the individual defendants, on the basis of qualified immunity. 545 Halsey Lane Properties, LLC v. Town of Southampton, No. 14-CV-800 (ADS)(GRB), 2014 WL 4100952 (E.D.N.Y. Aug. 19, 2014). The Court's findings of law in that opinion are recounted at length later in this decision.

On November 6, 2014, the Defendants moved for an order (1) pursuant to Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985) and In re World Trade Center Disaster Site Litigation, 503 F.3d 167, 169-70 (2d Cir. 2007) declaring that this Court is divested of jurisdiction to proceed with pre-trial proceedings and discovery pending the disposition of their appeal of the August 19, 2014 Order and (2) pursuant to Rule 8(a)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure to stay the proceedings pending disposition of the Defendants' appeal.

On November 20, 2014, the Plaintiff moved for a declaratory judgment certifying the Defendants' appeal as "frivolous."

On December 11, 2014, the Court issued an order reserving decision on both the motion to stay discovery and pre-trial proceedings pending the disposition of the appeal of the August 19, 2014 Order and the motion to certify the appeal as "frivolous." The Court expressed its willingness to entertain a motion for partial reconsideration of that part of the August 19, 2014 order denying the motion to dismiss the complaint as against the Individual Defendants on the basis of qualified immunity, on the condition that the Defendants withdraw their notice of appeal without prejudice within 14 days of the date of that order.

The Defendants subsequently withdrew their notice of appeal to the Second Circuit.

On January 16, 2015, the Defendants, relying on this Court's December 11, 2014 order and a December 12, 2014 decision by Justice Daniel Martin of New York State Supreme Court, Suffolk County in the Article 78 proceedings, moved pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ. P.") 60(b)(2), (5), and (6) for reconsideration of the August 19, 2014 order in its entirety and to dismiss the complaint.

For the reasons set forth in this opinion, the Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Unless stated otherwise, the following facts are drawn from the complaint and construed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, the Plaintiff.

A. The Parties

The Plaintiff is a New York limited liability company.

The Defendant Town of Southampton (the "Town of Southampton") is a municipal corporation.

The Planning Board is a Board created by the Board of Southampton pursuant to New York Town Law § 271.

The Defendant Dennis Finnerty ("Finnerty"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member and Chairperson of the Planning Board at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant John Blaney ("Blaney"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member and Vice Chairperson of the Planning Board at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant George Skidmore ("Skidmore"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the Planning Board at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Larry Toler ("Toler"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the Planning Board at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant John Zuccarelli ("Zuccarelli"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the Planning Board at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Philip A. Keith ("Keith"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the Planning Board at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Michele Berkoski, sued in her capacity as an Executor of the Estate of William A. Berkoski, Jr., having been issued Letters Testamentary by the Surrogate's Court of the County of Suffolk on or about May 12, 2011, is sued herein on account of the individual actions of William A. Berkoski, Jr. ("Berkoski"), who was a member of the Planning Board at the relevant times herein prior to his death on or about March 15, 2011.

The Defendant Jennifer L. Caruso, sued in her capacity as an Executor of the Estate of Berkoski, having been issued Letters Testamentary by the Surrogate's Court of the County of Suffolk on or about May 12, 2011, is sued herein on account of the individual actions of Berkoski.

The Defendant Roman Roth ("Roth"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the Town of Southampton's Agricultural Advisory Committee (the "AAC") at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Thomas Conklin ("Conklin"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Warren Topping, also known as Jaegger Topping ("Topping"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Adam Halsey ("A. Halsey"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Lee Foster ("Foster"), sued in her individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant John L. Halsey ("J. Halsey"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Lawrence Halsey ("L. Halsey"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Henry Kraszewski ("Kraszewski"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant James Pike ("Pike"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Katherine Kazanas ("Kazanas"), sued in her individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Anthony Piazza ("Piazza"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Arthur Ludlow ("Ludlow"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Kenneth Tillotson ("Tillotson"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Michael Wesnofske ("Wesnofske"), sued in his individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendant Susan Falkowski Parry ("Parry"), sued in her individual capacity, is and/or was a member of the AAC at the relevant times herein.

The Defendants John and Jane Doe Nos. 1 through 6 are presently unknown individuals or entities who, according to the Plaintiff, may be liable to the Plaintiff.

B. The Factual Allegations

By deed dated February 26, 2003, the Plaintiff purchased a 40.747 acre parcel of property located in the Town of Southampton, known as Suffolk County Tax Map No. 900-105.XXX-XXXX-XXX.030 (the "Property"). The purchase price remitted by or on behalf of the Plaintiff for the Property was $15, 150, 000.

The Property is identified on a subdivision map known as the Map of Broadlands, approved by the Planning Board on July 3, 1980, and filed in the Office of the Suffolk County Clerk on August 29, 1980, as Map No. 6930. All or part of the Property had been utilized as agricultural farmland since prior to the establishment of the Broadlands Subdivision.

In 1980, the prior owners of the Property, Raymond G. Wesnofske and Leonard Schulman (the "Grantors"), entered into an agreement with the Town pursuant to New York General Municipal Law § 247 that imposed certain understandings and agreements concerning the use of the Property.

The aforesaid agreement was memorialized in a Grant (the "Grant") which, following a public hearing, was authorized by the Town Board by Resolution dated August 16, 1980. The Grant, filed in the Office of the Suffolk County Clerk, expressly reserved to the Grantors and their "successors, heirs, legal representatives, and assigns" numerous property rights, including future uses of, and rights to make improvements on, the Property. The Plaintiff is a successor in title and interest to the Grantors.

Under the terms of the Grant, in consideration for the subdivision and aforementioned easement rights, the Grantors expressly retained and reserved for themselves and their successors the right to utilize the Property for "some or all" of the following uses:

1. farming operations and activities, including soil preparation, cultivation, fertilization, irrigation, pest control, water and drainage control, farm buildings, all other normal and customary farming operations and the use of farm vehicles and equipment in connection therewith;
2. open, fallow, landscaped and wooded areas, with lanes, walkways, foot paths, and ponds or brooks;
3. recreational areas, for compatible recreational uses;
4. one single-family dwelling and customary accessory uses and structures incidental thereto; and
5. to erect drainage structures and utility lines on the Property.

The Grant further provided that the Grantors and their successors were not restricted from constructing upon, maintaining, or utilizing the Property "to the extent specifically required or useful for ...


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