SULLIVAN COURT UPHOLDS WURTSBORO
PLANNING BOARD’S REVOCATION
OF SUBDIVISION APPROVAL AFTER THE
FILING OF THE SIGNED SUBDIVISION PLAT
On October 22, 2014, the Sullivan County Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit against the Village of Wurtsboro by developers whose subdivision approval had been voided and rescinded by the Planning Board. The project, Kaufman Farms West, was granted a 72-lot cluster subdivision in 2008, and then re-approved in October 2011, and the subdivision plat was signed by the Chairman of the Planning Board in July 2012 and filed in the County Clerk’s office in August 2012.
The Planning Board later discovered that the number of approved lots was based on a calculation that included a portion of the site that was located outside the boundaries of the Village. In addition, the number of lots approved was not based upon a conventional subdivision plan as required by state and the Village’s zoning law. On June 12, 2014, the Planning Board rescinded the approvals after determining, among other things, that the approvals had been granted in violation of law and were, therefore, void.
The Planning Board’s determination was made after a meticulous review of the record, full disclosure to the developer and a three-month due process hearing during which the developer had an unlimited opportunity to support its position that the approvals cannot or should not be rescinded. The developer claimed, among other things, that density credits had been transferred from property owned by the developer across the street from the project site and within the boundary of the Village, and not from the Town property located outside the Village. The Planning Board determined that the developer’s claims lacked credibility and had no support in the record and rescinded the prior approvals.
The developer brought a combined Article 78 and declaratory judgment action in Supreme Court to overturn the Planning Board’s decision. In addition, the suit asked the court to vacate two local laws enacted by the Village Board of Trustees that modified the local zoning and subdivision laws to more closely conform to the state zoning and planning laws governing cluster developments.
The Village Board and Planning Board filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit grounded on objections in points of law and documentary evidence that refuted the claims. In a 14-page decision, Supreme Court dismissed all 14 causes of action asserted by the developer. Among the court’s rulings is that, affirming the Village’s position, the Planning Board had the authority to rescind an approval that had been issued in error where the subdivision plat had been signed and filed. The court also ruled that the Planning Board was not bound to the thirty-day statute of limitations to challenge a planning board decision, stating that, “[a]dministrative agencies are not precluded by the statute of limitations from addressing and correcting their mistakes.” As to the rest of the developer’s claims, the court found that they consisted primarily of “conclusory statements” that “are not supported by specific statements of ultimate fact” and are, therefore, “insufficient to state a cause of action” and dismissed them.
The case is titled “Sullivan Farms IV, LLC, Sullivan Farms II, Inc, and Kaufman Farms, LLC, v. Village of Wurtsboro, Village of Wurtsboro Board of Trustees, and Village of Wurtsboro Planning Board,” Sullivan County Index No. 1056-14.