The developers wanted to building a housing complex called Village Green in Islip, Long Island. The community objected and the Town Board dilly-dallied on the application until the developers gave up and went to court, arguing that the "denial" violated the civil rights laws because it was motivated by the community's race-based opposition to the project. But the Town never formally denied the application. Is the case ripe for adjudication by the federal courts?
The case is Village Green at Sayville v. Town of Islip, issued on August 5. After the property was rezoned in 2006 to allow for residential buildings, it took years for the developers to raise money for the project and to comply with certain sewer requirements. In 2014, the Village Green asked the Town Board to allow an apartment complex of 64 rental units, with 20% set aside as affordable units. After members of the community objected, strongly implying racial objections in claiming the project would among other things attract crime, drugs and prostitution, Village Green modified its application to build only 59 units, with half set aside for senior citizens. This attracted more community opposition, and if you want your faith in humanity to diminish even further, take a look at some of the public comments in the opinion at pages 7-8; I have seen this before in other cases involving the construction of rental and low-income properties, as the comments imply that local residents are worried that Black residents will move in.
The Town took its time on the application, taking a vote in December 2016. But no one seconded the town supervisor's motion to approve the application, which meant the resolution failed for lack of a second. (I wonder what Robert's Rules of Order says about this). The Town Board has not acted on the application since that time, producing this lawsuit which the EDNY dismissed because the claim is not ripe for adjudication since there was no final decision on the application.
The Court of Appeals (Pooler, Chin and Carney) reverses and the case is revived. The Court does not rule on whether the Town acquiesced to race-based community opposition to the project. (Had that been the case, the Town Board's denial would have violated the Fair Housing Act and the Constitution). Instead it asks whether the case is ripe for adjudication by the EDNY. The case is ripe. While the Town did not publicly vote No on the application, the motion to approve failed for lack of a second, and it chose to treat the failed motion to approve as a denial of the application. The town also did not schedule any further proceedings on the application in nearly six years. So the Court of Appeals takes that as a No from the Town Board. Sometimes inaction is the same as No. The case reruns to the EDNY for discovery on the merits of the case.