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Zoning: DC3 LLC v. Town of Geneva

By: Daily Record Staff//April 18, 2011

Zoning: DC3 LLC v. Town of Geneva

By: Daily Record Staff//April 18, 2011

U.S. District Court, WDNY


Vested Interest in Zoning Classification — Due Process

DC3 LLC v. Town of Geneva


Judge Larimer

Background: The plaintiff DC3 LLC brings the instant action, seeking to invalidate Local Law #3 of 2009, passed by the Town of Geneva, which altered the residential zoning classification of certain real property owned by DC3. DC3 generally claims that in passing the local law, the town failed to comply with a number of procedural requirements and state regulations, and violated DC3’s federal and state constitutional rights to equal protection, due process of law and freedom from the taking of private property without just compensation. The town moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s federal and state constitutional claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6), on the grounds that the plaintiff has failed to state a plausible claim. DC3 cross moved for summary judgment on its state law claims, but did not offer any argument opposing the town’s motion to dismiss DC3’s federal and New York state constitutional claims.

Ruling: Since the plaintiff did not oppose dismissal of the constitutional claims and the court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s remaining state law claims, the complaint is dismissed. In order to state a claim for a due process violation, a the plaintiff must initially allege that he possesses a cognizable property interest according to the court. “When a landowner alleges that he has been deprived of property in violation of the due process clause by the actions of a state zoning authority, we begin our inquiry by determining whether . . . the applicant has a clear entitlement to the [action] sought from the government official or administrative body.”

In New York, a town board possesses virtually unfettered discretion with respect to the assignment of zoning designations for real property within its territorial jurisdiction. Thus, federal courts applying New York law have routinely concluded that due to the town boards’ vast discretion to assign, change or decline to change zoning designations, property owners do not possess a cognizable property interest in the zoning designation of their property. The court observes that the plaintiff makes no factual allegations upon which a finding could be made that its interest in the zoning designation of its property was vested. The plaintiff does not allege that it engaged or invested in any significant construction or other land development in reliance upon the prior zoning designation. As such, the plaintiff has failed to allege a cognizable interest in the zoning designation of its property, and thus has not alleged a plausible due process claim. As to the property takings claim, there is no suggestion that the land has been deprived of all economic value and, as a result, this claim must also fail.

Stephen E. Hall for the plaintiff; and Terry A. Rice of Rice & Amon for the defendants

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