LAND MASTER MONTG I, LLC; LAND MASTER II, LLC;
In 2004 the Town of Montgomery adopted a comprehensive land use plan and implementing zoning laws that, among other things, eliminated the multi-family (RM-1) zoning district. In a major ruling, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s determination that this action constituted exclusionary zoning given the local and regional need for affordable housing. It has been a while since the courts in New York have had the opportunity to reinforce past judicial pronouncements regarding the obligation imposed on local governments, by the courts, to consider local and regional affordable housing needs. Given the fact that the State Legislature has not yet enacted a comprehensive program for the provision of affordable housing (e.g., like the program in the State of New Jersey), judicial support for this principle remains critically important.
The litigation began after the developers submitted land use applications to the Town of Montgomery to build affordable and cluster housing in an area of the town which for nearly 40 years had been the only part of the town where multifamily housing was specifically permitted. The Town then declared a moratorium on residential developments that included more than three dwelling units, which was then followed by the adoption of the 2004 comprehensive land use plan which formed the basis for the elimination of a zoning designation specifically dedicated to multifamily housing. As a result, multifamily housing was no longer expressly allowed anywhere in the town.
In response to the Town’s assertion that there were other opportunities for affordable housing in the Town, the trial court judge wrote, “The Town Board is not being asked to ‘guarantee’ affordable housing…It is being asked to do what the law requires, i.e., to provide a balanced and well-ordered plan for the community which adequately considers regional needs and requirements . . . This is not accomplished by abrogating control to others and limiting opportunities of right simply to residences of adult communities and mobile home parks.”
The appellate court also agreed with the court below that the Town failed to follow the requirements of the State Environmental Quality Review Act when it adopted the comprehensive plan and implementing local laws.