Plaintiff, a non-profit organization, sought to establish a residence for two dozen people recovering from alcoholism and substance abuse. The proposed location was zoned R2A, limited to “single and two family residences and houses of worship.” Though some multi-unit residences, like dormitories, nursing homes, etc. could operate under a special use permit, other multi-unit dwellings, like Plaintiff's planned residence, must obtain a use variance. Though both require an application process, a special use permit does not require showing “unnecessary hardship,” while the application for a use variance does. On these grounds, Plaintiff filed a federal action alleging that the City's Zoning Ordinance violated both the FHA and the ADA on its face. Plaintiff also filed an Article 78 proceeding seeking review of the BZA’s decision to deny Plaintiff a use variance.
First, the Court addressed standing, stating an organization may bring suit on behalf of its members by demonstrating: “(a) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization's purpose; and (c) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.” Here, standing exists because Plaintiff alleged the Zoning Ordinance imposed more burdensome application requirements than required of multi-member dwellings for people without disabilities, and that the ordinance prevented Plaintiff from opening the proposed residence to serve its members was sufficient to show an injury “fairly traceable” to Defendant's actions. In addition, the organization could bring this action on behalf of its members as “(1) it serves a class of individuals with discrimination claims-individuals recovering from substance abuse; (2) the interests of the class are germane to the organization, which is in the business of developing and operating sober homes; and (3) no individual participation of class members is necessary because the instant litigation involves a facial challenge” to the Zoning Ordinance.
In our next post, we will look at the merits of the discrimination claims themselves.
The case was Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc. v. City of Albany, 2015 WL 4067066 (NDNY 7/2/2015).