Soundview Assoc.s v. Town Of Riverhead

Decision Date14 July 2010
Docket NumberNo. 09-CV-4095 (JFB)(AKT).,09-CV-4095 (JFB)(AKT).
PartiesSOUNDVIEW ASSOCIATES, Plaintiff, v. TOWN OF RIVERHEAD; Town Board of Riverhead; Planning Department of the Town of Riverhead; Richard Ehlers, Individually; Dawn C. Thomas, Individually; and John Does and/or Jane Does # 1-6, Individually and Personally, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York






David Antwork of Campanelli & Associates, Mineola, NY, for plaintiff.

Phil Siegel of Smith, Finkelstein, Lundberg, Isler & Yakaboski, LLP, Riverhead, NY, for Defendants.

memorandum and order

JOSEPH F. BIANCO, District Judge:

On September 23, 2009, plaintiff Soundview Associates (hereinafter plaintiff,” “Soundview,” or “Soundview Associates”), brought this action against defendants Town of Riverhead (hereinafter “the Town” or “Riverhead”), Town Board of the Town of Riverhead (hereinafter the Town Board), the Planning Department of the Town of Riverhead (hereinafter the Planning Department), Richard Ehlers, Dawn C. Thomas, and John Does/Jane Does # 1-6 (collectively defendants), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 alleging, inter alia, that defendants violated plaintiff's substantive and procedural due process rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments and violated plaintiff's First Amendment rights. In particular, plaintiff asserts that the defendants violated its constitutional rights, when, among other things: (1) in 2003, defendants deprived plaintiff-in an arbitrary and capricious manner-of the ability to build a health spa on a 191-acre site in Riverhead despite the existence of a 1982 Special Permit that allowed such construction; and (2) defendants wrongfully conditioned the processing of a separate application to construct a clubhouse on the property by another company on plaintiff's withdrawal of its continuing application with the Town of Riverhead for the health spa, as well as plaintiff's withdrawal of a pending state court action challenging the 2003 health spa decision. Plaintiff contends that these actions violated its constitutional rights.

Presently before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies the motion in part. Specifically, the Court grants defendants' motion to dismiss plaintiff's claims under the Fifth Amendment. The Court also grants defendants' motion to dismiss claims against the Town Board and the Planning Department because they are duplicative of the claims raised against the Town of Riverhead. The Court denies defendants' motion to dismiss all of plaintiff's other claims.

I. Background
A. Facts

The following facts are taken from the complaint (“Compl.”). These facts are not findings of fact by the Court but rather are assumed to be true for the purpose of deciding this motion and are construed in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the non-moving party.

Plaintiff brought the instant complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 for redress of violations of plaintiff's right to petition the government for the redress of grievances under the First Amendment and the plaintiff's rights to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. (Compl. ¶ 1.) According to the complaint, plaintiff is the owner of a 144-acre parcel of real property located on the north side of Sound Avenue and east side of Oakleigh Avenue, in Baiting Hollow in the Town of Riverhead, which is described as Suffolk County Tax Map Parcel Number 0600-40-02-6.3” (hereinafter “the subject property”). ( Id. ¶ 20.) Soundview intended to construct a health spa on 2.752 acres of the subject property. ( Id. ¶ 21.)

1. History of the Property

The Town Board of Riverhead exercises authority to determine applications for Special Permits and Site Plan approval within the Town. ( Id. ¶ 23.) On December 15, 1981, the Town of Riverhead adopted Article XXV of Chapter 108 of the Town Code to create a Recreational Use District; in that district, certain uses were permitted as of right, including but not limited to “marinas and resorts,” “golf clubs,” and, by special permit, “motels and boatels” and “any other recreational use,” and accessory uses, such as “health spas, taverns, restaurants, and retail stores.” ( Id. ¶ 24.) On January 26, 1982, Riverhead Flagg Corporation, Soundview Associates' predecessor-in-interest with respect to the subject property, petitioned the Town of Riverhead to change the zoning of its 191-acre site (hereinafter the “Flagg Site”) to Recreational Use and requested a Special Permit to construct condominium units and make other improvements on the Flagg Site. As part of that petition, the Riverhead Flagg Corporation noted that its contract-vendee intended to continue using and operating the golf course, tavern, restaurant, and retail store on the Flagg Site and wished “to utilize the premises for the purposes of a health spa.” ( Id. ¶ 26.) On November 3, 1982, the Town Board of Riverhead adopted Resolution No. 680, which directed the Town Clerk to amend the Town's official zoning map to include the Flagg Site in the Recreational Use district. ( Id. ¶ 28.) Resolution No. 680 also granted a Special Permit “to run with the land to construct a 300-unit condominium complex, including tavern, restaurant, and retail store, and health spa, subject to the requirements, restrictions, and/or limitations of the Riverhead Town Code and noted that “covenants and restrictions stating that the 191-acre parcel shall not be further improved shall be filed with the County Clerk in a form and manner acceptable to the Town Board after review by the Town Attorney and are subject to waste water treatment in a manner approved by the Suffolk County Department of Health. ( Id. ¶ 29.) This Special Permit ran with the land, had no expiration date, and, according to plaintiff, was at no time revoked by the Town of Riverhead. ( Id. ¶ 44.)

On March 22, 1983, the Town Board adopted Resolution No. 161, which approved a site plan for the condominium units; however, the resolution did not include the location of the proposed health spa. ( Id. ¶ 30.) On July 5, 1983, the owners of the subject property proceeded with construction of the condominiums but did not obtain site approval for or begin construction of the health spa. ( Id. ¶ 31.) On April 19, 1984, Baiting Hollow Development Corporation, another one of Soundview Associates' predecessors-in-interest with respect to the subject property, executed a Grant of Scenic Easement with the Town of Riverhead. ( Id. ¶ 32.) This easement granted a “recreational scenic and conservation use easement” on the Flagg Site. ( Id.) The Grant of Scenic Easement restricts the use and development of the Flagg Site to the following:

a. golf club and golf course open to public or private membership, as the case may be;

b. golf club and golf course facilities including, but not limited to, restaurant, public or private, separate catering facilities and tavern;

c. jogging paths, cycling paths, riding paths;

d. retail stores specializing in golf, tennis and swimming equipment and apparel, limited to not more than one of each such store;

e. any other compatible recreational uses.

( Id. ¶ 33.)

On December 17, 1986, Soundview Associates acquired the subject property and all of the rights, permits, benefits, and privileges therein from predecessor-in-interest Baiting Hollow Development Corporation. ( Id. ¶ 34.) On February 28, 1989, the Town Board of Riverhead adopted Resolution No. 184. That resolution approved a site plan for additions to the clubhouse for restaurant use and creation of a lined pond, all within the easement area. ( Id. ¶ 35.) In May 1992, Soundview Associates requested and received permission to modify the boundary of the easement area to allow the construction of some of the approved residential condominium units within the easement area. ( Id. ¶ 36.) The easement area was thereafter amended to remove some property from the easement area and to include certain other property within the easement area. ( Id. ¶ 37.)

In 1996, Soundview Associates leased the golf course on the subject property to Rugby Recreational Group, LLC (hereinafter “Rugby”); the lease gave Rugby an option to purchase the golf course for $10 million. ( Id. ¶¶ 38-39.) The lease also reserved a seven-acre parcel for Soundview Associates; the intended use of that parcel was the development and construction of the health spa. ( Id. ¶ 41.)

2. 2002 Permit and Site Plan Applications

In early 2002, Soundview Associates applied for a special permit to construct a health spa on 2.572 acres of the subject property. ( Id. ¶¶ 47, 50.) The proposed health spa was to be serviced by public water and by a private septic system, subject to the approval of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. ( Id. ¶ 51.) On March 5, 2002, the site plan and special permit applications were deemed complete, and the Town Board classified the project as an “unlisted action” pursuant to the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (hereinafter “SEQRA”). ( Id. ¶ 52.) Soundview Associates' 2002 special permit application was referred to the Planning Department of the Town of Riverhead (hereinafter Planning Department). ( Id. ¶ 53.) On June 20, 2002, the Planning Department issued a resolution recommending that the special permit application be denied because the Planning Department deemed a health spa to be a use that was inconsistent with the easement grant. ( Id. ¶¶ 55-56.) 1 On September 17, 2002, the Town Board held a public hearing regarding the application for a special permit. ( Id. ¶ 60.) After the hearing, Soundview Associates' engineers confirmed that the proposed health spa project was within the approved waste-water flow parameters and would comply with...

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