The Third Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined defendant property owners’ counterclaim should have been dismissed. Defendants, in the context of a zoning-violation action by the town, alleged fraud and a violation of civil rights by the town. With respect to municipal liability for civil rights violations in the zoning context, the court explained:
A government official may face civil liability if a party can prove that he or she was “depriv[ed] of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws” (42 USC § 1983). With respect to zoning issues, “42 USC § 1983 protects against municipal actions that violate a property owner’s rights to due process, equal protection of the laws and just compensation for the taking of property under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution” … . To state a cause of action, defendants must “allege that, without legal justification, they were deprived of a vested property interest, consisting of more than a mere expectation or hope of obtaining a permit or a variance” … . Further, a municipal body may face liability pursuant to 42 USC § 1983 only where the constitutional deprivation stems from an official municipal policy or custom … .
Here, defendants never had a permit to allow them to park more than four commercial vehicles on the property or to install fuel tanks to use in association with their commercial operations. Nor do they allege that they had a vested property interest in such a special use permit … . Moreover, defendants’ submissions fail to establish that the Planning Board’s discretionary determination to impose conditions on defendants’ special use permit “rose to the level of a constitutional violation, i.e., that they were so outrageously arbitrary as to constitute a gross abuse of governmental authority . . . that would support a claim pursuant to 42 USC § 1983” … . Even accepting as true that one Planning Board member stated that he wanted to “make an example” of defendants, defendants did not allege, nor does the record support a claim, that this motivation resulted from official municipal policy or custom … . Town of Tupper Lake v Sootbusters, LLC, 2017 NY Slip Op 01428, 3rd Dept 2-23-17
ZONING (PROPERTY OWNERS’ FRAUD AND OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT COUNTERCLAIM SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISMISSED IN THIS ACTION BY THE TOWN ALLEGING ZONING VIOLATIONS)/MUNCIPAL LAW (ZONING, (PROPERTY OWNERS’ FRAUD AND OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT COUNTERCLAIM SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISMISSED IN THIS ACTION BY THE TOWN ALLEGING ZONING VIOLATIONS)/CIVIL RIGHTS LAW (MUNICIPAL LAW, ZONING, PROPERTY OWNERS’ FRAUD AND OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT COUNTERCLAIM SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISMISSED IN THIS ACTION BY THE TOWN ALLEGING ZONING VIOLATIONS)