Appellate Division Upholds Planning Board’s Rescission of Subdivision and Site Plan Approvals

Petitioner Sullivan Farms II, Inc. owned property in the Village of Wurtsboro and adjoining property in the Town of Mamakating. In 2009, Sullivan Farms II received conditional final site plan and subdivision approval from Respondent Village of Wurtsboro Planning Board for the development and construction of a 72–unit townhouse development known as “Kaufman Farms West”. The approval lapsed due to inactivity, so Sullivan Farms IV, LLC, successor-in-interest, sought and was granted approval in 2011. Petitioner Kaufman Farms, LLC submitted a site plan/special use application with the Planning Board for a separate residential development, known as “Kaufman Farms East,” on its nearby property. While review was pending, Respondent Village of Wurtsboro Board of Trustees adopted Local Laws No. 1 and 2 of the Village of Wurtsboro (2014), which altered the procedure for calculating the number of allowable building lots or dwelling units for a residential cluster subdivision in the Village. As a result, the Planning Board rescinded its approval for Kaufman Farms West. Petitioners brought an Article 78 proceeding and declaratory judgment action challenging the decision to rescind the subdivision and site plan approvals. The Supreme Court granted Respondent’s motion to dismiss the amended petition/complaint for failing to state a cause of action.

Under the Village Law, building lots or dwelling units in a cluster development “shall in no case exceed the number which could be permitted, in the planning board's judgment, if the land were subdivided into lots conforming to the minimum lot size and density requirements of the zoning local law applicable to the district or districts in which such land is situated.” Though the 85-acre development was sufficient for the proposed 72 dwelling units, only 54 acres were actually located within the Village. Therefore, the Planning Board rationally determined that its final approval of Kaufman Farms West violated state and local law and must be rescinded. Moreover, since subdivision approval was not legally granted in the first instance, Sullivan Farms never had a valid approval from which vested rights could be acquired.

Petitioners also alleged that the Planning Board failed to make any findings pursuant to SEQRA when it rescinded the subdivision approval. However, the Court found that the Planning Board correctly found its revised determination “was merely performing the ministerial function of rescinding an approval that was void ab initio” and thus was not performing an “action” that would trigger SEQRA. Finally, the Board of Trustees “identified the relevant areas of environmental concern, took a hard look at them, and made a reasoned elaboration of the basis for its determinations.” Accordingly, Appellate Division, Third Department affirmed the dismissal of the Petition.

The case was Sullivan Farms IV, LLC v Village of Wurstboro, 134 A.D.3d 1275 (3d Dep’t 2015).

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