Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal Of Substantive Due Process Claim Based on Planning Board’s Refusal to Adopt 25-Year-Old SEQRA Review

In 1987, the Town of Union Vale Planning Board issued a negative declaration pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) regarding a proposal to subdivide a 950-acre parcel of real property owned by plaintiffs/petitioners.  Plaintiffs/petitioners later sought and received approval to subdivide a portion of the property, which was developed.

In 2012, plaintiff/petitioner Dryfoos, to whom a portion of the property had been sold, applied for preliminary plat approval to subdivide the remainder of the parcel using the 1987 negative declaration. The Planning Board found that the 1987 negative declaration was inapplicable and ruled the application was incomplete. Plaintiffs/petitioners commenced this action to recover damages pursuant to 42 USC § 1983, claiming the Planning Board's determination violated their substantive due process rights. The trial court granted the branch of defendant/respondent's motion alleging a violation of constitutional rights pursuant to 42 USC § 1983, and denied plaintiffs/petitioners’ motion for leave to renew their opposition.  Plaintiffs/petitioners appeal.

The Appellate Division, Second Department stated that to establish a violation of substantive due process, plaintiffs must establish “a cognizable or vested property interest, not the mere hope of one.” Here, plaintiffs/petitioners were required to establish a “legitimate claim of entitlement” to have the 1987 negative declaration applied to their present application. As the Planning Board's discretion was not “so narrowly circumscribed” that approving the application of the 1987 negative declaration was “virtually assured,” plaintiffs/petitioners failed to allege a cognizable property interest.

The case was Leonard v Planning Bd. of Town of Union Vale, 136 A.D.3d 873 (2d Dep’t 2016).

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