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Knaust v. Kingston, City of

Citation: 28 ELR 20289
No. 96-CV-601 (FJS), 978 F. Supp. 86/(N.D.N.Y., 10/10/1997)

The court holds that claims, asserting violations of various environmental statutes, the common-law nuisance doctrine, and the Fifth Amendment's takings clause, based on landowners' allegations that a proposed business park's stormwater management system will not prevent petroleum-based pollutants from seeping into a lake on the landowners' property are not actionable. The court is persuaded that the landowners' claims are primarily grounded in their concern that the business park will deprive them of the ability to operate a mushroom growing venture. Yet, because the court must draw all reasonable inferences in plaintiffs' favor, the court first holds that the landowners' allegations of environmental injury are sufficient to establish standing under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). Turning to the merits of the landowners' NEPA claim, the court holds that the New York Economic Development Administration's (EDA's) finding of no significant impact was not arbitrary and capricious, and thecourt grants the EDA's motion for summary judgment on the landowner's NEPA claim. The EDA concluded that the proposed project did not pose a significant threat to the water resources located on landowners' property. The EDA also investigated the possibility of the land being prime or unique farmland, but discovered that the area is currently zoned for one-family residences and that there were no applications for variances or proposals to reinitiate mushroom farming in the area. Furthermore, the EDA determined that none of the adverse effects created by the business park appear to have the potential to affect the quality of the human environment significantly.

Notwithstanding concerns about landowners' standing under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), the court holds that the business park is consistent with the state's coastal management plan. A local board found that the proposed project was consistent with the local waterfront revitalization program. And the New York Department of State determined that the proposed project would advance New York's coastal management plan. Thus, the landowners' CZMA claim is moot, and the court grants the EDA's motion to dismiss the claim. The court next holds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over landowners' common-law nuisance claim, because the EDA's decision to award a grant for the business park project was discretionary in nature, and the landowners have not alleged that the federal government has waived its sovereign immunity. Last, the court denies the landowners' motion to enjoin further construction of the business park during the pendency of this action. After thoroughly reviewing all of the evidence submitted in this case, the court finds that the landowners have not demonstrated that the proposed business park will result in irreparable harm. At best, the landowners demonstrated that there is a possibility that stormwater runoff from the proposed business park will make its way to the landowners' lake, and the speculative nature of this alleged harm is clearly insufficient to justify the drastic remedy of a preliminary injunction.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
John J. Privitera
McNamee, Lochner, Titus & Williams
75 State St., Albany NY 12201
(518) 447-3200

Counsel for Defendants
Michael J. Moore, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
State Capitol, Albany NY 12224
(518) 474-7330