Major Defeats for Colonial Trustees
The Appellate Division, Second Department has more clearly defined the authority of the Southampton Town Trustees created under the Dongan Patent. One case involved the Trustees’ attempt to assert regulatory power over private development along the ocean beach in the Incorporated Village of Quogue (Semlear v. Incorporated Village of Quogue, 2015 NY Slip Op 03345 (April 22, 2015)) and the other involved similar action in the Incorporated Village of West Hampton Dunes (Incorporated Village of West Hampton Dunes v. Semlear, 2015 NY Slip Op 03325 (April 22, 2015)).
The Court’s opinion is set out at length in the Quogue decision. The Court held the Trustees “have no lawful governmental or regulatory power to grant or deny permits in connection with … grading … and … the development, construction, maintenance, and use of structures and lands anywhere upon or in the ocean beaches located within the boundaries of the Incorporated Village of Quogue, except for the management of the specific activities and uses … for ‘taking seaweed from the shores of any of the common lands of said town, or carting or transporting to or from, or landing property on said shores, in the manner heretofore practiced.’”
In addition, “any attempt by the Trustees … to exercise or extend such power or authority over ocean beaches within the boundaries of the Incorporated Village of Quogue, … except in the management of the specific activities and uses reserved to the inhabitants of the Town of Southampton … is unlawful, unenforceable, and null and void.”
An earlier Constructive Notice newsletter concerning the lower court ruling in the West Hampton Dunes case can be found here.
(Kudos to Constructive Notice subscriber Nica Strunk, Esq. (of Nica B. Strunk, Attorney at Law), who represented the Village of Quogue, Constructive Notice subscriber Jonathan Sinnreich, Esq. (Sinnreich Kosakoff & Messina LLP) and Joseph Prokop, Esq. (Joseph W. Prokop, PLLC), co-counsel representing the Village of West Hampton Dunes, on their impressive wins.)
Unlike the lower court’s holding in the West Hampton Dunes case, the Second Department’s judgments do not depend on the Municipal Home Rule Law. While limited on their face to assertions of jurisdiction within Village boundaries, the rationale of the appellate decisions relies on the delineations of authority found in the special legislation governing the Trustees. Hence, it appears the rulings may well extend to all ocean beaches within the Town of Southampton.