RAYLE v. TOWN OF CATO BOARD

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Fourth Department, New York.

Matter of David RAYLE and Laurie Rayle, Petitioners-Respondents, v. TOWN OF CATO BOARD, Respondent-Appellant.

Decided: June 14, 2002

Present:  PIGOTT, Jr., P.J., PINE, HAYES, WISNER, and HURLBUTT, JJ. Melvin & Melvin, LLP, Syracuse (Ronald S. Carr of Counsel), for Respondent-Appellant. Bentkofsky & Simmonds, LLP, Auburn (Erin P. Champion of Counsel), for Petitioners-Respondents.

Petitioners commenced this CPLR article 78 proceeding seeking to annul the determination of respondent granting the application of Addison C. and Marjorie I. Sheckler for rezoning of five acres of their property as a Planned Development District (PDD).  Petitioners allege that the determination is not based on a comprehensive land use plan, constitutes illegal spot zoning and is arbitrary and capricious.   We conclude that Supreme Court erred in granting the petition.

 “[Z]oning determinations enjoy a strong presumption of validity, which can only be overcome by a showing that the decision to rezone was unreasonable and arbitrary” (Matter of Save Our Forest Action Coalition v. City of Kingston, 246 A.D.2d 217, 221, 675 N.Y.S.2d 451;  see Matter of Boyles v. Town Bd. of Town of Bethlehem, 278 A.D.2d 688, 690, 718 N.Y.S.2d 430;  see also Pyne v. Knaisch, 159 A.D.2d 999, 1000, 552 N.Y.S.2d 477).  “[T]he burden rests on the party attacking them to overcome that presumption beyond a reasonable doubt” (Asian Ams. for Equality v. Koch, 72 N.Y.2d 121, 131, 531 N.Y.S.2d 782, 527 N.E.2d 265;  see Boyles, 278 A.D.2d at 690, 718 N.Y.S.2d 430), and here petitioners failed to meet their burden.

 “The power to zone is derived from the Legislature and must be exercised in the case of towns * * * in accord with a ‘comprehensive plan’ ” (Asian Ams. for Equality, 72 N.Y.2d at 131, 531 N.Y.S.2d 782, 527 N.E.2d 265;  see Town Law § 263).  “A comprehensive plan has as its underlying purpose the control of land uses for the benefit of the whole community based upon consideration of its problems and applying the enactment or a general policy to obtain a uniform result” (Kravetz v. Plenge, 84 A.D.2d 422, 429, 446 N.Y.S.2d 807;  see Asian Ams. for Equality, 72 N.Y.2d at 131, 531 N.Y.S.2d 782, 527 N.E.2d 265).   The “plan need not be contained in a single document;  indeed, it need not be written at all.   The court may satisfy itself that the municipality has a well-considered plan and that authorities are acting in the public interest to further it by examining all available and relevant evidence of the municipality's land use policies” (Asian Ams. for Equality, 72 N.Y.2d at 131, 531 N.Y.S.2d 782, 527 N.E.2d 265;  see Udell v. Haas, 21 N.Y.2d 463, 471-472, 288 N.Y.S.2d 888, 235 N.E.2d 897).

 Contrary to petitioners' contention, respondent's determination is based on a comprehensive land use plan.   The Town of Cato (Town) enacted specific legislation to allow PDDs based on its recognition that there was a need for “flexible land use” and its desire “to encourage maximum efficiency in development” (Code of Town of Cato § 76-10[A] ).   Respondent was initially presented with a handwritten letter requesting a PDD and referred the matter to the Town Planning Board (Planning Board).   Members of the Planning Board visited the site and followed all of the requisite procedures in reviewing the detailed application subsequently submitted by the Shecklers.   That application included all of the requisite forms and stated that the purpose of the PDD was to allow a local business to expand and thereby possibly create more jobs for local residents.   The Planning Board recommended that respondent grant the application and, in granting the application, respondent imposed restrictions on the PDD to minimize aesthetic impacts.

 Also contrary to petitioners' contention, the determination does not constitute illegal spot zoning.   The ultimate test in determining whether a zoning determination constitutes spot zoning “is whether the change is other than part of a well-considered and comprehensive plan calculated to serve the general welfare of the community” (Matter of Daniels v. Van Voris, 241 A.D.2d 796, 799, 660 N.Y.S.2d 758;  see Henderson Taxpayers Assn. v. Town of Henderson, 283 A.D.2d 940, 941-942, 723 N.Y.S.2d 786), and here the determination is part of a well-considered and comprehensive plan to serve the general welfare of the Town. Finally, we conclude that petitioners failed to establish that the rezoning would have a detrimental effect on the property of the surrounding landowners and thus failed to meet their burden of establishing that the determination is arbitrary and capricious.

It is hereby ORDERED that the judgment so appealed from be and the same hereby is unanimously reversed on the law without costs and the petition is dismissed.

MEMORANDUM: