Appellate Court Upholds Oneida County’s Right to Eminent Domain
In Truett v. Oneida Cty., No. 1042, 2021 WL 6072291 (4th Dept 2021), Petitioners sought to annul the determination of respondent, Oneida County, to condemn certain real properties by eminent domain for the construction of a public parking facility in the City of Utica. The Appellate Court’s scope of review was limited to: (1) if the proceeding was constitutionally sound; (2) if Oneida County had the requisite authority; (3) if Oneida County’s determination complied with the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) and Eminent Domain Procedure Law (EDPL) Article 2; and (4) if the acquisition would serve a public use. The Court held that all of Petitioner’s contentions lacked merit except for (3) if Oneida County’s determination complied with SEQRA and EDPL Article 2 and (4) if the acquisition would serve a public use.
By relying on the findings set forth by the designated lead agency for the purposes of SEQRA found in Turkewitz v Planning Bd. of City of New Rochelle, 24 AD3d 790, 791 (2d Dept 2005), the petitioners’ contention that respondent failed to comply with those requirements was rejected. Additionally, because Oneida County properly determined that the condemnation of the properties would serve the public use of mitigating parking and traffic congestion under General Municipal Law § 72-j (1), this contention was also rejected.
Town of Seneca Falls Determination to Enact the Local Law Deemed Arbitrary and Capricious
In, Cayuga Nation v. Town of Seneca Falls, 199 A.D.3d 1443, 154 N.Y.S.3d 601 (4th Dept 2021), Petitioners commenced a proceeding seeking to annul the determination by the Town of Seneca Falls to enact Local Law No. 3 of 2020 which prohibited vehicles from being parked on a county road in the vicinity of a farm stand owned and operated by petitioner, Cayuga Nation. Seneca Falls moved to dismiss the petition on the ground that each of the three causes of action stated failed to state a cause of action. The Seneca County Supreme Court granted the motion and petitioners appealed. The Appellate Court held that the second cause of action should have been granted.
Cayuga Nation’s first cause of action asserted that Seneca Falls lacked jurisdiction to enact parking regulations on a county road. However, contrary to petitioners’ contention, Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1660 (a) (18) granted local municipalities the authority to enact parking regulations on county roadways, and as such the first cause of action failed to state a cause of action and was properly denied.
Cayuga Nation’s second cause of action asserted that the determination to enact Local Law No. 3 was arbitrary and capricious because it was discriminatory and Seneca Falls did not consider the comments, statements, and concerns Cayuga Nation properly raised prior to the hearing on the law. Under CPLR 7803 (3), the allegations in the pleading and the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom did make Seneca Falls’ determination to enact the Local Law arbitrary and capricious. As such, Cayuga Nation’s second cause of action merit was modified accordingly.
Cayuga Nation’s third cause of action asserted that the determination to enact Local Law No. 3 was not supported by substantial evidence. However, the substantial evidence standard is relevant only where a determination is made as a result of a hearing held, and at which evidence was taken. Since there was no hearing at which evidence was taken, the third cause of action failed to state a cause of action was properly denied.
City of Utica’s Default Judgment Against Defendant Affirmed
In, City of Utica v. Mallette, No. 20-00864, 2021 WL 6071644 (4th Dept 2021), Defendant’s husband was given loans from the City of Utica, totaling $150,000.00 for purchasing and installing an elevator in a building located in the city, which were secured by a mortgage on the building. The City of Utica brought an action for default judgment again the defendant because she signed a personal loan guarantee in which she unconditionally guaranteed repayment of the loans given to her husband should he default on them, and despite the City’s due demand, she had still not paid them. The City was granted a default judgment after properly serving the defendant in Connecticut and never receiving a reply. Thereafter, again in Connecticut, the City served defendant with an information subpoena and a copy of the default judgment. Five years later, defendant moved to vacate the default judgment, and appealed the order denying her motion to vacate the default judgement because: (1) the Oneida County Supreme Court lacked personal jurisdiction over her; (2) CPLR 5015 (a) (1); and (3) CPLR 5015 (a) (3).
The Appellate Court held that the Oneida County Supreme Court properly concluded that it had personal jurisdiction over defendant because the City’s cause of action directly arose from the defendant’s business transactions relating to the building. The evidence in the record established that defendant played far more than a minimal role in the building project. She was named as part of the project’s two-person development team; she was heavily involved in the project, having intimate knowledge of the project and its operations; she made frequent trips to the City for meetings to monitor the project’s progress, and she personally guaranteed her husband’s loans. Further, Defendant’s detailed personal involvement in multiple aspects of the project, amply demonstrated that she purposefully availed herself of the privilege of conducting business activities in New York, thereby invoking the benefits and privileges of the state’s laws, giving her federal due process as well.
The Appellate Court went on to say that the Oneida County Supreme Court properly denied defendant’s motion to vacate the default judgment because a party seeking to vacate a default judgment pursuant to CPLR 5015 (a) (1) must demonstrate a reasonable excuse for the default and a meritorious defense, and defendant’s stated lack of familiarity with the legal system was insufficient to demonstrate such a reasonable excuse.
Finally, the Appellate Court stated the Oneida County Supreme Court properly denied defendant’s motion to vacate the default judgment pursuant to CPLR 5015 (a) (3) as defendant did not meet her burden of establishing fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct on the part of the City sufficient to entitle her to vacatur of the judgment because she could only offer broad, unsubstantiated allegations of fraud on the part of the City.