Exact Compliance with SEQRA Architectural Conditions Are Enforceable
January 07, 2024
Recently in BMG Monroe I, LLC v. Village of Monroe Zoning Board of Appeals, the Second Department reinforced strict compliance with all State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”) visual impact findings and mitigation conditions.
BMG Monroe I, LLC, (“BMG”) is a developer that owns at 78.93-acre tract of undeveloped land, located in both the Town of Monroe and the Village of Monroe. BMG sought to develop 181 residential units on the property.
In 2001, a developer (not BMG) submitted an application to the Town and Village to develop the Property for residential use: the Smith Farm Project. The Smith Farm Project involves 181 homes and on-site recreational amenities, including a community green, a recreation/activity center, an outdoor swimming pool, and a network of walking trails.
Fourteen years later in August of 2015, the Village of Monroe Planning Board, which was the lead agency under SEQRA, adopted a resolution granting “cluster subdivision approval, conditional final conditional use approval, [and] conditional final site plan approval” for the project. The resolution, which incorporated by reference the SEQRA findings statement, required, among other things, that the siding for the residential units “consist of shingles, shiplap, stucco, stone, or brick siding materials,” that the main rooflines “be steeply sloping with 12 on 12 pitch or greater,” and that the units “follow a strict architectural code . . . ensur[ing] that the constructed homes will, to the extent practicable, reflect the architectural styling of the drawings presented in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.” The resolution also incorporated the plans accompanying the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which included an architectural drawing called the typical rear elevation drawing. Matter of BMG Monroe I, LLC v. Village of Monroe Zoning Bd. of Appeals, 215 A.D.3d 954, 954, 189 N.Y.S.3d 210, 211-212, 2023 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 2113, *1-2, 2023 NY Slip Op 02119, 1
In May 2018, the Village of Monroe Building Inspector denied BMG’s applications for two building permits in connection with the project on the grounds that the building plans did not comply with the conditions in the resolution and the SEQRA findings statement. Specifically, the Building Inspector determined that the rear elevation of the units as reflected in the building plans did not comply with the typical rear elevation drawing listed in the SEQRA findings statement, the roof pitch of the main roof line submitted on the building plans varied between “12 on 12 to 3 on 12,” and the proposed vinyl siding material was not one of the permitted siding materials.
BMG appealed the Building Inspector’s determination to the Village of Monroe Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”). Following a public hearing, the ZBA denied the appeal and affirmed the Building Inspector’s determination. The ZBA concluded that the building permit applications did not comply with the conditions set forth in the resolution and the SEQRA findings statement with respect to the proposed rear elevation of the subject units, the proposed siding materials, and the proposed pitch of the main rooflines.
BMG commenced an Article 78 proceeding to review the ZBA’s determination. The Supreme Court denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding holding that the ZBA’s determination was rational and supported on the record.
The Second Department affirmed the Supreme Court decision holding that the ZBA’s determination was rational and supported by the record.
Takeaway: Faced with the limited judicial review of an Article 78 petition, strict compliance with SEQRA conditions and may not be easily disregarded.