Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hahn v. Hagar

Supreme Court of New York, Second Department

July 19, 2017

Thomas G. Hahn, Jr., et al., appellants,
v.
Johanne Hagar, respondent. Index No. 6257/11

         APPEAL by the plaintiffs, in an action, inter alia, pursuant to RPAPL 1602, as limited by their brief, from so much of an order of the Supreme Court (Peter M. Forman, J.), dated May 11, 2015, and entered in Dutchess County, as, upon a stipulation of facts, directed the dismissal of the cause of action pursuant to RPAPL 1602 to compel the sale of certain development rights.

          Corbally, Gartland and Rappleyea, LLP, Poughkeepsie, NY (Allan B. Rappleyea of counsel), for appellants.

          Gellert, Klein & MacLeod, LLP, Poughkeepsie, NY (Roderick J. MacLeod of counsel), for respondent.

          L. PRISCILLA HALL, J.P., LEONARD B. AUSTIN, SANDRA L. SGROI, FRANCESCA E. CONNOLLY, JJ.

          OPINION & ORDER

          CONNOLLY, J.

         The parties to this action are siblings who disagree over the future of a Hudson Valley farm that has been in their family for more than 240 years. The plaintiff Thomas G. Hahn, Jr., who holds a qualified life estate in the property, and two of his sisters, who hold remainder interests, seek authorization pursuant to RPAPL 1602 to sell the development rights to the property in order to preserve its future use as a farm. This appeal requires us to consider, for the first time, whether development rights constitute "real property, or a part thereof" for purposes of RPAPL 1602. For the reasons that follow, we hold that development rights constitute real property for purposes of RPAPL 1602, but that the plaintiffs failed to establish their entitlement to relief pursuant to that statute.

         I

         The plaintiffs, Thomas G. Hahn, Jr., Jeanne Halstead, and Barbara Butts, and the defendant, Johanne Hagar, are siblings. The subject of this controversy is a 101-acre farm, known as the "Hahn Farm, " located in the Town of Pleasant Valley, Dutchess County. The property, which has been in the parties' family for more than 240 years, was owned jointly by their parents until their father's death in 1995, and then solely by the parties' mother, Edna Hahn, until her death on November 28, 2007. Edna Hahn's will conferred a qualified life estate in the property upon Thomas G. Hahn, Jr., and left the remainder interest to her four children in equal shares, as follows:

"If my son, Thomas G. Hahn, Jr., survives me, I confer upon him life use of all the real property and related improvements owned by me at the time of my death, it being my intention that he be permitted to continue to farm such real property and use such improvements for the remainder of his life or for such period of time as he otherwise elects. My said son shall be responsible for all expenses in connection therewith including, but not limited to, taxes, utilities and maintenance costs. Upon the death of said son or, if he elects to cease farming said property prior to his death, I devise all such real property and related improvements to my children, Barbara Butts, Johanne Hagar, Jeanne Halstead and Thomas G. Hahn, Jr., in equal share per stirpes."

         In or about 2011, the plaintiffs became interested in permanently preserving the property as farmland and restricting its future development by selling some or all of the property's development rights or, in the alternative, placing a conservation easement over some or all of the property. When the defendant expressed reluctance to selling her share of the development rights, the plaintiffs commenced this action pursuant to RPAPL 1602 for a judgment determining that they "may either sell the development rights to Hahn Farm, to preserve it as a farm, or, alternatively, to place a conservation easement on Hahn Farm, to again preserve it as a farm, and that such judgment shall bind all parties to this action in perpetuity." [1] Under RPAPL 1602, the owner of a possessory interest in real property, such as a life estate, may apply to the court for an order directing that the "real property, or a part thereof, be mortgaged, leased or sold." A court is authorized to grant an application pursuant to RPAPL 1602 if it is satisfied that the requested relief is "expedient" (RPAPL 1604).

         At her deposition, the defendant testified that she believed the plaintiffs' request for her to authorize a sale of the development rights was contrary to their mother's will, which specified that the property would go to the four siblings as tenants in common if their brother ceased farming or died. The defendant testified that a sale of the development rights would limit the possibility of using the property in the future, and that she did not wish to see the property's future use burdened in any way. During discussions with the plaintiffs, the defendant proposed carving out a piece of the property for her so that the plaintiffs could then use the remaining property as they saw fit, but the plaintiffs rejected this offer. Although the defendant had no specific plans to use the property, she expressed a desire to keep it in the family, noting that her interest could eventually pass to her own children and grandchildren, who could use the property for living, working, or as an income source. [2]

         Following discovery, the parties submitted the matter to the Supreme Court upon a stipulation of agreed facts, which incorporated the defendant's deposition as an exhibit. Of note, the parties stipulated to a general understanding of what was meant by a sale of development rights: "Typically, with the sale of development rights, the owners agree that in exchange for a sum of money to be determined by an appraisal, they place perpetual restrictions on the property limiting the density of development. In other words, in exchange for money, owners agree that fewer homes than are allowed by zoning and planning regulations, may be built." The parties also stipulated that, as of the time this matter was submitted to the court, Thomas G. Hahn, Jr., continued to actively farm the property.

         In an order dated May 11, 2015, the Supreme Court determined that development rights do not constitute real property, or a part thereof, for purposes of RPAPL 1602. The court reasoned that the statutory authority granted by RPAPL 1602 "cannot be rationally extended to compel the sale of a portion of the abstract and intangible rights that contribute to the value of that land, separate and apart from the sale of the land itself" (Hahn v Hagar, 48 Misc.3d 430, 434 [Sup Ct, Dutchess ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.