Appeals court upholds Woodbury’s zoning laws
April 21, 2016
WOODBURY — A state appeals court has upheld the Village of Woodbury’s Comprehensive Plan and zoning laws, reversing a 2014 ruling that branded the zoning “exclusionary” for failing to accommodate the high-density housing needs of the Hasidic residents of neighboring Kiryas Joel.
In a decision signed Wednesday, a four-judge Appellate Division panel rejected all three grounds Supreme Court Justice Francis Nicolai had given for invalidating the planning blueprint and two zoning amendments Woodbury approved in 2011. Under their ruling, Kiryas Joel and the affiliated plaintiffs that filed the lawsuit that same year must now return to Supreme Court and prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the plan and land-use laws constitute illegal “exclusionary zoning.”
“It strikes down the notion of affirmative action in accommodating religious sects in zoning,” Dennis Lynch, the South Nyack attorney representing Woodbury, said of the appeals court ruling on Thursday.
Kiryas Joel’s lawyers had argued that zoning for large residential lots prevents Hasidic Jews from “living and freely practicing their religion in Woodbury.” Joining the village as a plaintiff in the case was the land-holding arm of Kiryas Joel’s main congregation, which owns 175 acres in Woodbury.
In addition to the “exclusionary zoning” argument, Nicolai — who retired shortly after rendering his decision in the case — had invalidated Woodbury’s Comprehensive Plan for two technical reasons involving the environmental review and county approval for those documents. The Appellate Division found no merit in either claim and reversed Nicolai on those points as well.