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Clients’ zoning lawsuits dismissed after Couch White successfully challenged opponents

May 8, 2023

Couch White represented developers Starlight Development, LLC and Kevin Vandenburgh in obtaining contentious local approvals for the proposed 231-unit apartment project located along the Hudson River on Second Avenue in the City of Troy, New York. Couch White advised Starlight on the development of a robust environmental assessment strategy and assisted them in securing a Negative Declaration for the project under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).  Couch White has also assisted with obtaining a change in zoning district for the project property from the City of Troy City Council, and variances from the Troy Zoning Board of Appeals to increase height and density amid staunch opposition from groups locally and around the Country.  Recently, Couch White also successfully advised and represented Starlight Development, LLC and Kevin Vandenburgh in relation to two Article 78 special proceedings brought challenging the City’s approvals, resulting in dismissals of both petitions, and upholding Starlight’s approvals.

In the first lawsuit, the project opponents did not name Starlight Development, LLC or Kevin Vandenburgh in their challenge to the City Council’s Negative Declaration and rezoning of the Property.  Couch White monitored these proceedings and conferred with counsel representing the City of Troy City Council.  The Court dismissed the petition, finding that the City Council’s review and approval was rational and proper based upon the substantial record Couch White created with Starlight and its engineering team.

Couch White represented both Starlight Development, LLC and Kevin Vandenburgh in the second special proceeding brought to challenge the ZBA’s issuance of area variances.  On behalf of Starlight Development, LLC Couch White sought dismissal of the case because the project opponents failed to properly serve Starlight.  Couch White asserted and the Supreme Court agreed that the attempted service on Starlight was insufficient to support personal jurisdiction over Starlight.  On behalf of both Starlight and Kevin Vandenburgh, Couch White asserted that since the period for serving a necessary party expired, the Petition should be dismissed as untimely.  The Supreme Court agreed, holding that Starlight is a necessary party and the statute of limitations had long expired for properly bringing Starlight into the case.  Couch White also argued that Kevin Vandenburgh, as a company representative, was not a proper party to the lawsuit, and that the variances issued in Starlight’s favor were rational and proper.  The Supreme Court again agreed that Kevin Vandenburgh was not a proper party and dismissed him from the proceeding.  The Court granted Couch White’s arguments regarding necessary parties in their entirety, dismissing the case on those grounds.  Congratulations to Starlight on a successful outcome to the challenges to its lawfully issued SEQRA and zoning approvals! For more information, please contact Alita Giuda, John Ahearn, or William Demarest.