VOL. II, NO. 1 WINTER, 2001
Happy New Year to All and Welcome to our second Report from Counsel, a Newsletter for the Firms clients and the other professionals who consult with the Firm, updating them on our practice as well as important new developments in the law.
SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE PAST YEAR
First, we thank all of you for the support that you have given us over the past year and the confidence you placed in us in solving your legal problems. Certainly, 2000 was an exciting year for the Firm. In February, Jon Ward joined the Firm after practicing law at an international law firm in Manhattan, and, more recently, at Farrell Fritz, on Long Island. In June, the Firm set up its web site, www.msahnlaw.com and in July, we moved into our new office suite (820). But one of the most exciting developments over the past year has been our transition to a paperless law firm. The Firm now predominately relies on the Internet and computer databases to conduct its legal research and access legal information. Thanks to technology, it is now possible to access all federal and state law (constitutions, statutes, regulations and court decisions), legal treatises and publications, and legal forms from our desktop computers. Not only has this completely eliminated the need for a traditional law library, but it also enables us to quickly and efficiently provide the most up-to-date advice to our clients. Like so many other fields that they have touched, the computer and the Internet have revolutionized the practice of law, and we are firmly committed to using this cutting-edge technology to the benefit of our clients.
NEW DEVELOPMENTS AT THE FIRM
New Partner/New Name: Jon A. Ward has become a partner of the Firm effective January 1, 2001. The Firms name has also been changed from Michael H. Sahn, PLLC to Sahn & Ward, PLLC. Jon has made valuable and significant contributions to the Firms growth and development over the past year. Jon has earned the respect of the Firms clients, and he has distinguished himself as an accomplished attorney. Jon will continue to represent the Firms clients in the areas of zoning and land-use law, real estate law, and civil litigation in federal and state courts. He will also continue to provide estate planning advice to the Firms clients.
MATTERS RECENTLY CONCLUDED BY THE FIRM
The Firm represented the seller of a multi-million dollar wholesale business in a complex transaction involving the sale of business assets and a property lease transaction.
The Firm has also represented numerous landowners and businesses in obtaining various approvals for the establishment and/or expansion of their facilities such as the expansion of manufacturing and warehouse facility in the Planned Industrial Park in Port Washington, alterations to office and commercial buildings in Nassau County and Suffolk County, and the establishment of a drive-thru food service establishment at a large shopping center in the Town of Hempstead.
NEW AND ONGOING MATTERS BEING HANDLED BY THE FIRM
The Firm continues to represent a group of commercial property owners along the North Service Road of the Long Island Expressway in Roslyn Heights, in their ongoing battle to stop the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) from constructing a 1,300 foot long, 22 foot high sound barrier wall in front of their buildings. After a full day evidentiary hearing, the Nassau County Supreme Court issued a preliminary injunction en-joining the DOT from constructing the wall, finding fatal defects in the noise study that the DOT relied upon to justify the wall. The DOT sought permission to appeal the Courts decision to the Appellate Division, Second Department, but the Second Department denied their request. The Trial Court thereafter denied the States motion to dismiss the Article 78 proceeding, and continued the injunction against the walls construction.
The Firm is also representing a new business venture in the acquisition and financing of a large industrial building in Port Washington, and the land use and building permit approvals needed to establish a new and exciting use. More on this will follow in the Spring Newsletter.
The Firm is counsel to a charitable, not-for-profit corporation in the establishment of a child care facility at the Belmont Raceway to serve the needs of the employees and staff at the Raceway.
Additionally, the Firm is representing an owner of vacant water-front property in the Town of Oyster Bay in connection with its proposed development. The project requires Town and New York State DEC approvals, including variances.
Clients of the Firm are also seeking project approvals from the Towns of Brookhaven, Islip and Babylon.
RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE LAW
Two upstate courts recently rendered decisions under-scoring the critical importance of complying with the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) when securing approvals in connection with land-use applications. In both cases, the courts annulled valuable land-use approvals because the municipalities failed to comply with the strict letter of SEQRA.
In Yellow Lantern Kampground, et. al. v. Town of Cortlandville, et. al., decided on November 28, 2000, the Appellate Division, Third Department, annulled a re-zoning to change an asphalt plant from a nonconforming use to a permitted use in its zoning district. This would have eliminated the need for the plant to obtain variances every time it wanted to expand or alter its existing facility. The Third Department found the proposed re-zoning to be illegal spot zoning because it benefitted a single landowner and was not in accordance with the Towns comprehensive plan. But the Court also found that the Town failed to fulfill its obligations under SEQRA when it failed to complete Part 3 of the Environmental Assessment Form submitted by the plant owner in connection with the application. This resulted in an annulment of the Towns SEQRA negative declaration and the re-zoning which followed.
In another case, Rewind Inc. v. Town of Irwin, (NYLJ September 20, 2000) the Supreme Court, Steuben County, annulled a re-zoning to permit the development of a Wal-Mart Super Center on approximately 32.9 acres of land, because the Town failed to fully comply with SEQRA. The Town had initially classified the project as Type I under SEQRA, and required a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). At the completion of the DEIS, the Town issued a negative declaration under SEQRA, subject to, among other things, mitigation of the identified traffic impacts by the New York State DOT and the applicants obtaining necessary permits and approvals from the New York State DEC in connection with development near the wetlands.
The Court found that by issuing the negative declaration, the Town abdicated its decision-making authority by giving the DOT and DEC the authorization to accept or reject mitigation measures without further review by the Town. The Court found that the Town prematurely terminated the SEQRA process by issuing a negative declaration when traffic and wetlands issues were not fully mitigated by the DEIS.
OUT AND ABOUT
Both Michael Sahn and Jon Ward appeared on local television recently in connection with client matters. Michael appeared on News Channel 4 in a story on the sound barrier wall litigation, and Jon appeared on Fox 5 News in connection with a settlement reached on behalf of a client with the New York State Attorney Generals Office. Stories on these matters also appeared in The New York Times and Newsday and local newspapers.
ITS A BOY!
Congratulations to Jon and Lauraine Ward on the arrival of their son, Jon (Jack) R. Ward, on July 21, 2000. Jack joins big sister Amelia (3) in the growing Ward household
SAHN WARD & BAKER, PLLCs Report from Counsel is published with the intent to inform readers of recent developments at the Firm and in the law. It is not intended, nor should it be used, as a substitute for legal advice or opinion which can be rendered only when related to specific fact situations.