Village’s Denial of a Permit to Fence-Off Private Road Subject to Claim for Inverse Condemnation
November 06, 2017
In the Village of Bayville, New York (“Village”), a landowner wished to enclose and protect private property (“Lot 18”) , including the roadway thereon, against trespassers and traffic. The landowner sought to erect crash gates on both sides of its property and across the roadway to prevent public access. The road upon Lot 18 forms a part of Shore Road (connecting the public part of the roadway north of Lot 18 with Godfrey Avenue farther to the south). Notably, Lot 18 abuts Mill Neck Creek and preventing traffic and access across the portion of Shore Road located upon Lot 18 may provide unfettered access to the water.
In the summer of 2013, the landowner made applications to the building inspector for a fence permit to construct two twelve-foot wide crash gates across Shore Road at the north and south sides of Lot 18. The building inspector denied the applications and the landowner appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals (“Board”). The Board denied the landowner’s appeal and the landowner commenced a hybrid Article 78 proceeding/action in the Supreme Court against the building inspector and the Board.
In addition to seeking a reversal of the denials and demanding issuance of the building permit for the fences, the landowner sought damages for inverse condemnation. The landowner argued that the Village had exercised a taking by allowing public access through the private property and upon the private roadway (especially because the building inspector and the Board denied the landowner’s rights to prevent such access).
The trial court issued an initial decision of June 2014, inter alia, (i) denying the landowner’s petition to reverse the denials and (ii) granting the building inspector’s and the Board’s motions to dismiss, including for failure to state a cause of action for inverse condemnation. Afterwards, however, the trial court granted the landowner’s application for leave to reargue. Upon reargument, the trial court’s later decision of December 2014, as clarified by its order of March 2015, affirmed its initial decision – except it denied the motion to dismiss the landowner’s claim for inverse condemnation. The building inspector and the Board appealed the March 2015 clarification order.
Last month, the Appellate Division, Second Department, affirmed the trial court’s March 2015 clarification order. The appeals court noted that “[t]he cause of action [for inverse condemnation] should not have been dismissed since [sic], inter alia, it stated a cause of action to recover for damages . . . .” Accordingly, the landowner can pursue its cause of action for inverse condemnation against the Village where public access upon and across private property is sanctioned by denial of the ability to enclose and protect it.