Court Overturns Hempstead Zoning Board’s Five-Year Limit on Laundromat’s Special Use Permit

Monday, June 16, 2014

Victory for Business Property Rights 

UNIONDALE, NY — Christian Browne, a partner with Sahn Ward Coschignano & Baker, PLLC, successfully represented a commercial property owner in an Article 78 proceeding in New York State Supreme Court against the Town of Hempstead’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The court overturned the Board’s decision to impose a five-year durational time limit on a special use permit for a Uniondale laundromat. The court held that the zoning board lacked the authority to impose a time limit on the life of the special permit. This decision marks a significant victory for business property rights.

In 1999, Mark Wieboldt and Laundry Palace U. applied for a special permit authorizing them to conduct a coin-operated laundromat on commercial property in Uniondale. The board granted the application, but placed a durational limitation on the permit, requiring Mr. Wieboldt to reapply every five years in order to continue his business operations.

The Board renewed the laundromat’s permit in 2008 with the same conditions. In 2013, Mr. Wieboldt retained Mr. Browne, who asked the Board to lift the five-year limit on the permit, arguing that the laundromat was entitled to permanently use the land for the operation of the business. Despite this request, the Board renewed the application and, once again, placed the five-year limit on the laundromat’s special permit.

In court, Mr. Browne successfully demonstrated that the town’s zoning ordinance does not give the Board the power to impose time limits on special permits. As cited by Mr. Browne, in order for a board to impose a durational limit, the relevant local ordinance must expressly empower it to do so. The firm also persuaded the Court that these types of time limitations run counter to basic principles of zoning law that empower zoning boards only to regulate the use of land, not the duration of a use.

“This decision is a big victory for property owners and local businesses,” Mr. Browne said. “A business needs to know that once a zoning board approves its use of land, the approval is permanent, so long as the owner operates lawfully. Property owners who seek and gain zoning approvals and who follow the law should not be forced to forever seek the permission of local authorities in order to simply operate an approved business.”

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