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Drug and Alcohol Abuse Center failed to receive a final decision on its Zoning Application – Dismiss

Plaintiff-appellant sought to establish a facility for individuals recovering from addiction in a building that was formerly used as a nursing home. The proposed facility would have to qualify as a community residence or domiciliary care facility and be granted a special permit from the city (White Plains). A permit was submitted and the Planning Board unanimously recommended approval. After public opposition, the Plaintiff-appellant, Sunrise, sought “reasonable accommodation to treat the proposed use as a ‘community residence.’ The board reiterated its view that the proposal met the ordinance’s special permit requirements. Public disapproval ensued and letters were submitted to the Common Council. After reviewing the supplemented application, the commissioner of the department of building issued a revised determination – the closest appropriate zoning ordinance not permitted where the nursing home sat. Instead of seeking relief from the Board of Appeals (zoning), the Plaintiff-appellant sought to file preliminary injunction in Court. Sunrise Detox filed a preliminary injunction in district court and the city moved to dismiss the complaint. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding “that Sunrise’s claims were unripe for adjudication by the court because they presented ‘a zoning dispute as to which there has been no final determination.’ “ The District Court also found that no exception to the final determination rule applied here because no showing was made that the board of appeals (zoning) lacked jurisdiction or made clear that all applications would be denied. The Second Circuit affirmed on the same grounds.

Law: [Because ʺ[r]ipeness is a jurisdictional inquiry,ʺ landowners bringing zoning challenges must meet ʺthe ʹhigh burdenʹ of proving that we can look to a final, definitive position from a local authority to assess precisely how they can use their propertyʺ before this Court may entertain their claims. Murphy, 402 F.3d at 347….We have previously characterized ʺ[t]he purpose of the ripeness requirementʺ as ʺensur[ing] that a dispute has generated injury significant enough to satisfy the case or controversy requirement of Article III of the U.S. Constitution.ʺ Dougherty v. Town of N. Hempstead Bd. of Zoning Appeals, 282 F.3d 83, 90 (2d Cir. 2002)… The Supreme Court has articulated “specific ripeness requirements applicable to land use disputes,” Murphy, 402 F.3d at 347, in particular holding that a takings claim “is not ripe until the government entity charged with implementing the regulations has reached a final decision regarding the application of the regulations to the property at issue,” Williamson Cnty. Reg’l Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172, 186 (1985)…Williamson Countyʹs final‐decision requirement helps distinguish between those cases in which a plaintiff has suffered a ʺconcrete and particularized,ʺ ʺactual or imminentʺ injury, Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992), and those in which the injury is ʺmerely speculative and may never occur, depending on the final administrative resolution,ʺ Dougherty, 282 F.3d at 90; see Williamson Cnty., 473 U.S. at 191.]

Here the Court finds that the basis of this claim is brought within the compass of the Williamson County decision. The Court held that “a non-final decision on how a parcel of land may be used does not ordinarily give rise to an injury that is sufficiently concrete and particularized to satisfy Article III.” Additionally, “a plaintiff alleging discrimination in the context of a land-use dispute is subject to the final-decision requirement unless he can show that he suffered some injury independent of the challenged land-use decision.” The Court reasoned that “[a] federal lawsuit at this stage would inhibit the kind of give-and-take negotiation that often resolves land use problems, and would in that way impair or truncate a process that must be allowed to run its course…”

Finding that this case is not one having an injury independent of a land-use decision and that the Plaintiiff-appellant failed to apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals, the second circuit affirmed this decision.

The Case is Sunrise Detox v. City of White Plains, 13-2911 (2d Cir, Oct. 2, 2014).

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