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Community Rights Counsel
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Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-296-6889
Fax: 202-296-6895

CRC News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 24, 1999
CONTACT: Doug Kendall or Tim Dowling, 202-296-6889



In a landmark ruling issued late yesterday, the New York Court of Appeals upheld the right of local communities to combat sprawl and protect vanishing open space through reasonable land use planning efforts. The case -- Bonnie Briar Syndicate, Inc. v. Town of Mamaroneck -- involved a 1994 zoning ordinance enacted by the Town of Mamaroneck, N.Y. The ordinance designates about 430 acres of property as a Recreation Zone. This recreational zoning is designed to protect open space, reduce flood risks, enhance recreational opportunities, and preserve wildlife habitat. Bonnie Briar Syndicate, the owner of about 150 acres of the property, challenged the zoning ordinance even though the Syndicate may continue to use the property to operate a profitable golf course, the historic use of the property for more than 70 years.

In August, Community Rights Counsel filed a brief on behalf of the American Planning Association urging the Court of Appeals to uphold the law and repudiate two earlier cases which suggested that "heightened" or "strict" judicial scrutiny should apply to any land use decision. Community Rights Counsel's brief demonstrated that courts should respect the decisions of local officials and invalidate them only if they are wholly without a rational basis.

Yesterday, the Court of Appeals agreed, declaring that its earlier rulings were no longer reconcilable with the holdings of the United States Supreme Court. In a critical portion of its opinion the Court ruled that "it is not this court's place to substitute its own judgment for that of the zoning board. It is similarly not for this court to determine if, in regulating land use, the rezoning determination was more stringent than one might reasonably conclude was necessary to further public objectives."

Community Rights Counsel's Executive Director Doug Kendall hailed the decision:

It is a critical victory for communities across New York. The Court of Appeals has affirmed the importance of local planning and repudiated two decisions that stood as an obstacle to community protections. The decision should boost efforts across New York to combat sprawl and protect open space.

Bonnie Briar Opinion

Articles on Bonnie Briar

Other Bonnie Briar Press Releases

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