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Ruling handed down in Kaleta vs. town of Hamburg zoning case

HAMBURG — On Oct. 17, Justice Patrick NeMoyer rendered an order and decision dismissing Kaleta Interests, et al versus town of Hamburg, filed by the Kaleta Interests and other parties against the town of Hamburg.

This proceeding challenged whether an amendment to the Hamburg Zoning Code, which set forth a permissible use of all commercial-2 zoned property, was properly enacted. The former Wal-Mart site at the Seven Corners, zoned C-2 and thus affected by the amendment, was under contract to be sold to Worldwide Protective Products for $2 million.

The Kaleta Interests had offered $1.2 – $1.3 million for the site, which would have been utilized for ice rinks, a field house, an educational center and a location for Buffalo Sabre Patrick Kaleta’s organization Helping Individuals to Smile.

Worldwide, which makes work gloves and other protective apparel and gear, had previously asked the town whether it could expand its operations to include additional business activities under the current C-2 zoning.

Although Hamburg had previously interpreted the zoning code to allow such activities, it acted to amend the zoning code to list these additional uses, “in order to avoid inconsistent interpretations of the code in the future, as it had previously addressed this same question with other developers,” according to Town Attorney Kenneth Farrell Esq.

Farrell said that, when he was initially asked about Kaleta’s challenge to the zoning amendment, he said that the town felt there was no merit to the petition, and filed a motion to dismiss.

The court has now agreed, in rejecting all of Kaleta’s claims and determining that the petition lacked merit as a matter of law.

“The petitioners challenged the zoning amendment on three separate grounds, which were all rejected by the court in its decision,” Farrell explained. “First, the court rejected the claim that the zoning amendment amounted to ‘spot zoning,’ stating that ‘what occurred in this case does not come close to meeting the accepted definition of spot zoning.’ The court went on to say that the town board did not engage in ‘spot zoning,’ as it had not singled out a small parcel of land for a use classification totally different from that of the surrounding area.”

The court also rejected the claim that Hamburg had violated the municipal home rule law in the manner in which it enacted the zoning amendment, concluding that “petitioners have failed to sufficiently allege, let alone show, any violation of the statute cited by them.”

The court lastly rejected the claim that a supermajority vote was required by the town law, to enact the zoning amendment, citing its misgivings that the statute relied upon by the petitioners was ever intended to cover the type of zoning amendment involved in this case.

“The court stated ‘that petitioners’ approach to this issue was unsupportable under any non-strained reading of the statute,’” Farrell said. “The statute on its face makes no provision for, and simply does not contemplate, the approach suggested by the petitioners, which seems utterly unworkable and would defeat a chief purpose of zoning legislation.

The court determined that Kaleta’s petition lacked merit as a matter of law, dismissed the petition in its entirety, and declared that the zoning amendment adopted by the town of Hamburg was validly enacted.

Kaleta Interests Attorney Terrence Connors said that he will be reviewing this determination with his clients.

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