Do any members of the Town Board have a conflict of interest with respect to the Form Based Code because they own property in the Chappaqua business hamlet?


In assessing whether a municipal official has an interest in some matter requiring his or her recusal, we must look to whether the interest in question can be reasonably viewed as “substantial” and “direct.” In the context of zoning legislation, courts have held that the ownership of real property in an area that will be financially affected by a board’s decision does not require disqualification if other property owners will be similarly affected. See Town of North Hempstead v. Village of North Hills, 38 N.Y.2d 334, 379 N.Y.S.2d 792 (1975); Segalla v. Planning Bd. of Town of Amenia, 204 A.D.2d 332, 611 N.Y.S.2d 287 (2d Dep’t 1994). Such interests are deemed too remote to constitute a disqualifying conflict of interest.

Courts also recognize that public policy should not discourage municipal officials from being property owners. See Clear Skies over Orangeville v. Town Bd. of Town of Orangeville, 2010 WL 7357949, at *18 (Sup. Ct. Wyoming Cty. 2010).

The opinion issued by the New York State Attorney General’s Office to Jerome J. Levenberg, Esq., the Village Attorney for the Village of Cedarhurst, 2002 N.Y. Op. Att’y Gen. 1028 (Mar. 4, 2002), further illustrates this point. In that matter, the AG opined that a trustee who owned commercial property in the Village’s Business Improvement District (“BID”) was required to recuse himself from voting on the BID budget only if he had a “substantial, personal interest in the outcome of the BID budget vote.” Such interest would exist if the trustee “owned a considerable portion of the commercial property within the BID” or a proposed improvement was to be closely situated to, or have a direct nexus with, the trustee’s property, such that the trustee’s interests were more likely to be affected than those of other BID property owners. However, the mere fact that a trustee owned property in the BID, by itself, did not set forth facts demonstrating recusal was required.

The same is true here. One Town Board member owns a residential property that lies within the 72-acre study area that was initially identified by the Town Board for possible rezoning. Based upon the authorities cited above, there is no basis to conclude that this Town Board member has a disqualifying interest with respect to consideration of form-based zoning legislation for the Chappaqua business hamlet.

This issue was originally addressed by the Town Board on October 26, 2020, at which time Town Counsel provided this same guidance to the Board. Any ongoing attempts to claim that a Town Board member has a conflict of interest are baseless.

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1. NEW - Will completing the SEQRA review for the FBC on the entire study area undermine the Town Board’s ability to limit the FBC to only a small area (the North Greeley corridor)...
2. NEW - Why is the Town Board considering revisions to the FBC legislation before receiving draft responses to the comments from the public and interested agencies on the Town's DGEIS? ...
3. What is a form-based code?
4. What is the purpose of Chappaqua’s comprehensive plan?
5. What is the goal of rezoning the Chappaqua Hamlet?
6. Will the rezoning change the history of Chappaqua?
7. Is the Chappaqua form-based code a construction project?
8. What is GEIS?
9. Didn’t the members of the Downtown Working Group who own commercial properties in the Chappaqua hamlet have conflicts of interest that precluded their participation?
10. Does the Form Based Code allow the entire Chappaqua Hamlet to be 5 stories in height?
11. Why does the DGEIS study a "full build out" or "buildout scenario" of the Chappaqua Hamlet under the Form Based Code?
12. Does the FBC mean development on Town-owned land?
13. If the Town Board determines in the future to sell or lease Town-owned land for a development project, will I have and opportunity to vote on whether that should occur? Will there be a referendum?
14. Has the Town been in contact with other public entities on this proposal (e.g. the school board)?
15. Once the Form Based Code is in place, what are the next steps for the Town to attract interest in potential opportunities for development?
16. Does the Town plan to use eminent domain to buy and consolidate privately owned, small contiguous parcels?
17. How does the public notification of a proposed development project change with the Form Based Code?
18. Why is this the appropriate time to adopt a Form Based Code for Chappaqua?
19. Does Chappaqua have the water and sewer infrastructure to handle future development?
20. What assumptions were the foundation of the Form Based Code?
21. Can the public vote on the Form Based Code?
22. Can the Town conduct a "public opinion poll" or an advisory (non-binding) referendum of the electorate with respect to the proposed Form-Based Code?
23. Do any members of the Town Board have a conflict of interest with respect to the Form Based Code because they own property in the Chappaqua business hamlet?
24. Did the members of the Town’s “Downtown Working Group” write the Form Based Code?
25. What is the “New Direction” announced by the Town Board for the Form Based Code? What does that mean and what happens next?
26. If the Town Board is limiting the Form Based district to North Greeley, why will the FGEIS and SEQRA Findings Statement be completed for the entire study area?
27. Can the Town lawfully regulate the number of bedrooms that would be permitted within new apartment units?
28. The Chappaqua Board of Education has asserted that the Town cannot control whether future developments in the Chappaqua hamlet will be subsidized through PILOT agreements. Is this accurate?