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33 Seminary LLC v. City of Binghamton

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 28, 2015

33 SEMINARY LLC; 31 SEMINARY LLC; and 26 SEMINARY AVENUE PROJECT LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF BINGHAMTON; MATTHEW T. RYAN, Individually and as Mayor of Binghamton; KENNETH J. FRANK, Individually and as Corporation Counsel for the City of Binghamton; THOMAS COSTELLO, Individually and as Supervisor of Building and Construction and Code Enforcement for the City of Binghamton; DAVID CHADWICK, Individually and as Former Supervisor of Building and Construction for the City of Binghamton; KEVIN ESWORTHY, Individually and as former Building Inspector of the City of Binghamton; JOHN STELLA, Individually and as Chairman of the Planning Commission of the City of Binghamton; MARK YOUNG, Individually and as Member of the Planning Commission of the City of Binghamton; MICHELLE O'LOUGHLIN, Individually and as Member of the Planning Commission of the City of Binghamton; ROBERT POMPI, Individually and as Member of the Planning Commission of the City of Binghamton; THOMAS POLLACK, Individually and as Member of the Planning Commission of the City of Binghamton; EARL WALKER, Individually and as Member of the Planning Commission of the City of Binghamton; JAMES WORHACH, Individually and as Member of the Planning Commission of the City of Binghamton; KELLY LIGEIKIS, Individually and as Member of the Planning Commission of the City of Binghamton; JOANN MASTRONARDI, Individually and as Chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Binghamton; VLADIMYR GOUIN, Individually and as Member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Binghamton; DONALD HANRAHAN, Individually and as Member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Binghamton; CARMAN GARUFI, Individually and as Member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Binghamton; and GERALD O'BRIEN, Individually and as Member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the City of Binghamton, Defendants

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For Plaintiffs: ALISON M. DREW, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, OFFICE OF ALISON MURADIAN DREW, Chappaqua, New York.

For Defendants: BRIAN M. SEACHRIST, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, CITY OF BINGHAMTON CORPORATION COUNSEL, Binghamton, New York.

For Defendants: DANIEL B. BERMAN, ESQ., HOLLY KOZLOWSKI AUSTIN, ESQ., ROBERT J. THORPE, ESQ., WENDY ANN MARSH, ESQ., ZACHARY M. MATTISON, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, HANCOCK ESTABROOK, LLP, Syracuse, New York.

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MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

Mae A. D' Agostino, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On November 2, 2011, Plaintiffs commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' rights under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses by denying Plaintiffs certain building permits and variances Plaintiffs sought for desired construction on two properties located within the City of Binghamton. See Dkt. No. 40. Plaintiffs also allege that certain provisions of Binghamton City Ordinance 009-009 are unconstitutionally vague. See id. at ¶ ¶ 224, 235-42. Presently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. See Dkt. No. 99; Dkt. No. 118.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

1. The Ordinance

On March 16, 2009, the Binghamton City Council adopted Ordinance 009-009, An Ordinance to Expand the Planning Commission's Review of Commercial and Residential Development (" the Ordinance" ), which amended certain sections of Chapter 410 of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Binghamton. See Dkt. No. 99-2 at 68-72. Defendant Ryan approved the Ordinance on March 22, 2009. Id. at 68. The City Council's stated purpose for the Ordinance was " to amend certain sections of Chapter 410 to expand the types of projects which

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require Planning Commission review and approval." Id.

As amended, Section 410-27 of the Ordinance provides in relevant part that

[t]he following uses are permitted in residential zoning districts:
. . . .

B. R-2 Residential One- and Two-Unit Dwelling District.

(1) Permitted by right.
(a) Principal uses:
. . . .
Single-unit residences
. . . .
Two-unit residences
. . . .
(3) Permitted with Planning Commission approval (special use permit and Series A site plan).
(1) Principal uses:
. . . .
Conversion of dwelling Unit to More than Four Bedrooms
. . . .

C. R-3 Residential Multi-Unit Dwelling District.

(1) Permitted by right.
(a) Principal uses:
. . . .
Single-unit residences
. . . .
Two-unit residences
. . . .
(2) Permitted with Planning Development approval (Series B site plan).
(a) Principal uses:
. . . .
Multi-unit dwelling: new construction or conversion of existing building into three or four units
. . . .
(3) Permitted with Planning Commission approval (special use permit and Series A site plan).
(a) Principal uses:
. . . .
Conversion of Dwelling Unit to More than Four Bedrooms

City of Binghamton, N.Y., Zoning Ordinance § 410-27 (Aug. 7, 2006, amended 2009) (" Zoning Ordinance" ).

Section 410-29(G) of the Ordinance, pertaining to the conversion or construction of dwelling units to more than four bedrooms, provides in relevant part that " [n]o dwelling unit conversion shall be permitted unless the dwelling shall, following such conversion, comply with all off-street parking required by Article X of the Zoning Ordinance." Zoning Ordinance § 410-29(G)(2)(d). Section 410-53 of Article X provides in relevant part that " [t]he minimum number of off-street parking spaces required for land uses or activities permitted by this chapter shall be as set forth in Schedule III, which is hereby adopted and made part of this article." Id. § 410-53. Schedule III in turn provides that the minimum space(s) required are two spaces per unit for a single- or two-unit dwelling, 1.50 spaces per unit for a multi-unit dwelling, and 2.33 spaces per unit for a multi-unit dwelling with four or more bedrooms. Id. § 410-53(G).

Section 410-36 provides:

A. Series A Site Plan approval from the Planning Commission pursuant to § 410.39 of this Article VIII is required for all new construction, for all commercial uses, for all special permitted uses, for all principal permitted and accessory uses, for all changes of use, and as required by § 410.27 or § 410.29 of this Chapter. No building permit shall be

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issued by the Building Inspector for any use which requires site plan approval except upon authorization of an[d] in conformity with plans approved by the Planning Commission.
B. Exceptions. Notwithstanding Subsection A of this section, no Series A Site Plan approval is required for: (i) single- and two-family dwellings and accessory uses thereto, except as may be required by § 410.27 or § 410.29 of this Chapter; or (ii) any change of use from one principal permitted or accessory use to another principal permitted or accessory use, including changes of use within a permitted multiple use, e.g. a shopping center, and where no exterior alterations or additions are proposed, provided the Planning Department and Building Inspector determine that the proposed change of use will not have any significant impact on:
1. Traffic volume
2. Site access
3. On-site and off-site parking
4. Internal circulation
5. Neighborhood noise levels
6. Green space (The proposed project will not have created a need for additional landscaping, screening, or buffering)
7. Drainage
8. Character of the neighborhood
9. Lighting
The list of items to be considered above is inclusive, but not exclusive, and the Planning Department and Building Inspector may consider any environmental or development issues that would have a significant impact on the parcel and/or the surrounding area.
C. A special use permit and/or Series A site plan review which has been authorized for a specific land use is not transferable and does not apply to any other land use.

Id. § 410-36.

2. 26 Seminary Avenue

On July 11, 2007, Plaintiff 26 Seminary Avenue Project LLC (" 26 Seminary" ) purchased a three-story building located at 26 Seminary Avenue in the City of Binghamton (" the 26 Seminary Property" ). Dkt. No. 40 at ¶ 140. At the time of purchase, the building contained a commercial space on the ground floor, two apartments on the second floor, and one apartment on the third floor. Id. at ¶ 141.

On December 28, 2007, 26 Seminary applied for a building permit to " install[] sub flooring providing for radiant heat" at the 26 Seminary Property. Dkt. No. 118-5 at 47. On December 30, 2007, 26 Seminary submitted to Defendant Chadwick a floor plan for the 26 Seminary Property which demonstrated four bedrooms and a kitchen and a roof design. Id. at 50-53. A cover letter addressed to Defendant Chadwick indicated that the enclosed floor plan was " typical for all three floors." Id. at 50. On January 4, 2008, 26 Seminary was issued Building Permit 8A, which authorized the installation of sub flooring. See id. at 79-82.[1] On February 30, 2009, ...


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