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Modjeska Sign Studios, Inc. v. Berle

Citation: 8 ELR 20183
No. No. 544, 11 ERC 1107/43 N.Y.2d 468, (N.Y., 12/21/1977) Aff'd

In a suit challenging a provision of the New York Environmental Conservation Law which requires that non-accessory billboards be removed within a six-and-a-half-year amortization period, the New York Court of Appeals rules that the statute is constitutional as applied and remands the case to the lower court for a determination of the reasonableness of the six-and-a-half-year limitation. Statutes enacted pursuant to the police power to regulate land use for aesthetic purposes will be deemed unconstitutionally confiscatory only where they deprive private persons of the substantial benefit of the regulated property. This standard is not met by the imposition of a negative easement prohibiting merely one use as narrow as the display of billboards. Thus, compensation is not due the owners nor the lessees of the property. Regulatory statutes are subject to the additional requirement, however, that they implement the police power reasonably. Because of the procedural posture of the case, the court declines to address the question of whether the imposition of the specified deadline is reasonable, and instead remands that issue to the trial court for a determination in light of additional evidence relating to the dimension of the plaintiff's investment in the property as well as the public's need for the six-and-a-half-year limitation.

Counsel for Appellant
Manley Fleischmann, Adelbert Fleischmann, Henry W. Killeen III
Jaeckle, Fleischmann & Mugel
700 Liberty Bank Bldg., Buffalo NY 14202
(716) 856-0600

Carl W. Peterson, Jr.
Hancock, Estabrook, Ryan, Shove & Hust
14th Fl., One Mony Plaza, 100 Madison St., Syracuse NY 13202

Counsel for Appellee
Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General; Stanley Fishman, Ruth Kessler Toch, Susan Marie Tatro
State Capitol, Albany NY 12224
(518) 474-7330