Developing a proper record and articulating detailed findings are the keys for our Municipal Law & Land Use lawyers to successfully defending local land use board decision making, both in the lower court and in the appellate court. Here, Petitioner brought an Article 78 proceeding challenging the ZBA’s determination to grant a special permit to the Hampshire Club to conduct nonmember events on its property as arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law. Representing the ZBA, Lester D. Steinman and Anna L. Georgiou successfully argued that the ZBA’s determination was rationally based and supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Supreme Court, Westchester County, (Jamieson, J.S.C.) agreed dismissing the Article 78 proceeding. On appeal, the Supreme Court’s determination was affirmed by the Appellate Division, Second Department.
Municipal Law & Land Use - SEQRA - Conditioned Negative Declaration
Knowledge of the intricacies of the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) is a vital asset of our Municipal Law & Land Use in defending local government land use board decisions against environmental challenges. Here, Petitioner filed an Article 78 proceeding challenging certain aspects of a Conditioned Negative Declaration (“CND”) adopted by the Planning Board under SEQRA in connection with its review of a three lot subdivision application. Representing the Planning Board, Lester D. Steinman moved to dismiss the litigation on the grounds that, in the absence of a determination on the merits of the underlying subdivision application, the challenge to the CND was premature. The Supreme Court, (Minihan, A.J.S.C.), agreed and dismissed the proceeding.
Our Municipal Law & Land Use lawyers know that attention to procedural details is critical for the exercise of municipal rights. Here, the Appellant challenged the Village of Scarsdale’s in rem tax foreclosure proceedings on the basis of, among other things, inadequate notice. Representing the village, Daniel Pozin and Lester D. Steinman, as special counsel to the village, persuaded the Appellate Division, Second Department, that the Appellant’s arguments were wrong, and the Second Department dismissing the appeal and the case.
Our Municipal Law & Land Use lawyers sometimes oppose injunctive relief applications by private entities who seek to stay the effectiveness of determinations by land use boards. To prevail in such litigation, familiarity with the prerequisites for injunctive relief - irreparable harm, likelihood of success on the merits and the balancing of the equities - is imperative. Here, the Petitioner sought to enjoin the effectiveness of a ZBA resolution which revoked the Petitioner’s certificate of occupancy to operate an ice cream store but stayed that revocation pending Petitioner obtaining special permit and site plan approval and otherwise reducing the hours of operation pending the receipt of those approvals. Representing the ZBA, Lester D. Steinman persuaded the Court to deny the injunctive relief on the grounds of Petitioner’s failure to show irreparable harm and a balance of the equities in its favor.
Municipal Law & Land Use - Zoning - Res Judicata - Collateral Estoppel
Our Municipal Law & Land Use lawyers sometimes use procedural defenses in representing their municipal clients. Here, the Petitioner challenged the Village of Mamaroneck Zoning Board of Appeals' (ZBA) denial of her appeal of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy to the same neighboring property owner. The issues raised by Petitioner had previously been raised in a prior appeal to the ZBA in which she participated. As a result Lester Steinman and Anna Georgiou, on behalf of the ZBA, successfully moved to dismiss the Article 78 proceeding on the grounds of res judicata and collateral estoppel.
Municipal Law & Land Use - Mootness of Application to Planning Board - Wetlands Issues
Municipal Law & Land Use lawyers sometimes use procedural defenses to defeat challenges to municipal action without the necessity of reaching the merits of the claim. Here, petitioners sought to annul a decision of the Planning Board of the Village of Mamaroneck that had granted a wetland permit to a neighboring property owner. However, at the time the court proceeding was commenced, the work authorized by the wetlands permit had been completed. Lester D. Steinman and Anna L. Georgiou, representing the Village's Planning Board, successfully moved to dismiss the proceeding as moot. Petitioners challenged the Village Zoning Board of Appeals’ denial of their appeal of a building permit issued to the same neighboring property owner. In a related case, the same petitioners sought to challenge a building permit on work that had already been completed. Les and Anna again persuaded the Supreme Court to dismiss the proceeding as moot.
Municipal Law & Land Use - Non-Conforming Use - Record Before Land Use Board
When representing our local government clients, McCarthy Fingar's Municipal Law & Land Use lawyers know that developing a proper record is the key to defending a decision of a land use board. The legal principle is that, when the record before a land use board provides a rational basis for the board’s decision, courts may not substitute their judgment for that of the land use board, even if the record would also support a contrary finding by the court. Here, the ZBA had determined that the replacement of a moving and storage business, which had been on the property for 70 years with a lighting equipment business, did not constitute a continuation of a pre-existing nonconforming use. Les convinced the New York State Court of Appeals to reverse a decision of the Appellate Division, Second Department, which had reached a contrary conclusion. As a result, Les successfully defended the Village’s ZBA’s finding – to wit, that the preexisting non-conforming use of the property for a moving and storage business had been discontinued.
Municipal Law & Land Use - Challenges to Standing
When defending local governments, our Municipal Law & Land Use lawyers use procedural defenses to defeat challenges to municipal action without the necessity of reaching the merits of a particular claim against the municipality. Here, Lester D. Steinman, representing the Town of Eastchester, successfully attacked the standing of the Plaintiffs (cooperative and condominium unit owner associations), to challenge a Town Board resolution amending the Town’s version of the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (“ETPA”) by removing certain cooperatives and condominium from ETPA regulation. Lester argued that the Plaintiffs’ claimed loss of preferential property tax assessments, resulting from the removal of their units from the ETPA regulations, did not fall within the zone of interest that the ETPA was intended to protect. The case was dismissed based upon Plaintiffs lack of standing.
Municipal Law & Land Use - Powers of Local Government - Home Rule
To effectively represent local governments, McCarthy Fingar’s lawyers must understand the breadth of the powers granted to local governments under the New York State Constitution. In a landmark ruling, Lester D. Steinman persuaded the New York State Court of Appeals to endorse Westchester County’s creative use of its state constitutionally derived home rule powers to abolish the elected Office of Sheriff and to combine that office and the County’s Parkway Police into a unified Department of Public Safety Services. Les's success for his client has permitted Westchester County to more effectively and efficiently provide police services to its citizens.