A state appeals court has ruled that the Dobbs Ferry Zoning Board of Appeals acted properly in 2015 when it denied a developer’s application for site plan approval for condominiums.
The Second Appellate Division on Jan. 16 reversed a decision by a Westchester Supreme Court judge who had ruled that the zoning board had exceeded its authority.
Seven years ago, Livingston Development Group LLC bought the former Rudy’s Beau Rivage catering hall at 19 Livingston Ave., a 1.3-acre hillside site overlooking the Hudson River.
The developer demolished the 160-year-old mansion and submitted a site plan to the Planning Board for two buildings with 12 condominium apartments. The planning board recommended approval of the plan.
The village Board of Trustees granted the site plan with conditions, including approval by the Architectural and Historic Review Board.
The architectural board denied approval, according to court papers, because the project would block the skyline.
Livingston submitted revised plans. This time, the architectural board saw no problem with the skyline but found that the proposed buildings were excessively similar to one another and excessively dissimilar to the neighborhood.
The zoning board upheld the architectural board, finding that the buildings would block views of the Hudson for 150 feet.
“This project by its very design significantly blocks open views of the Hudson River,” the zoning board found, “which is perhaps the most significant natural feature of the village.”
The zoning board also found that the project would depreciate the values of two nearby properties.
Livingston sued the zoning and architectural boards, arguing that the evidence did not demonstrate excessive dissimilarity to the neighborhood. The developer also argued that the zoning board had usurped the authority of the planning board, that architectural board members had violated the Open Meetings Law by meeting privately to coordinate their denial, and that both boards has succumbed to public opposition.
Supreme Court Justice Barbara G. Zambelli said in a 2016 decision that she was disturbed by evidence that members of the architectural board collaborated to deny Livingston’s site plan before the public meeting. Even so, it was the zoning board’s actions that were being challenged, and there were no allegations or evidence that its members prejudged the application.
But the zoning and architectural boards, she found, did not have a legal basis for annulling the planning board’s approval of the site plan. They had exceeded their authority by considering the views when the planning board, who’s powers include compliance with the village’s vision plan, had already analyzed the views.
Appellate court justices William F. Mastro, Jeffrey A. Cohen, Joseph J. Maltese and Linda Christopher reversed Zambelli’s decision.
Even assuming that the architectural and zoning boards usurped the power of the planning board by considering the views, they ruled, the zoning board had also based its decision on the harmful effects of the project on the surrounding area.
“This determination was rational, not arbitrary or capricious,” the justices said, “and supported by the evidence in the record.”
Livingston was represented by James W. Glatthaar and William P. Harrington of Bleakley Platt & Schmidt, White Plains. Dobbs Ferry was represented by Darius P. Chafizadeh and Alexander D. Rosati of Harris Beach, White Plains.