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Defeating Zoning and Building Codes—New York

New information added on January 9, 2011

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12th Annual National Conference
on Private Property Rights
October 2008

Updates and News Briefs

"Orthodox Monks Fight Wind Project" - News Brief, PRFA, January 2008

"City of Buffalo Issues Summonses to Banks Holding Mortgages on Abandoned Properties" - News Brief, PRFA, January 2008

"Ministry of Brooklyn's 'Green Church' Is Threatened By Community Preservationists" - News Brief, PRFA, January 2008

"Neighbors Rescue Small Bookstores By Investing In Them" - News Brief, PRFA, January 2008

"Vested Rights Bill Would Stop the Rules from Changing" - Carol W. LaGrasse, News Item, PRFA, February 7, 2008
Municipalities have been adding new rules in response to NIMBY's after applications are filed. The Vested Rights Bill (A6023-A and S3852-A) would put a stop to this unfair practice.

"Impact Fees Are Becoming a Popular Tool of Tax-strapped Municipalities"
- News Brief, PRFA, Nov. 2007

"Ode to Tackiness"
- By Carol W. LaGrasse,
March 31, 2005

"Court Allows Awosting Development at Base of Shawangunk Ridge" - PRFA News Brief, March 10, 2005
New York State Supreme Court, Ulster County, overruled Town of Gardiner zoning board of appeals' ruling prohibiting central sewage system for the upscale Awosting Reserve plan at the edge of the preservationists' coveted Shawangunks.

"Ellenville Thumbs Its Nose at Freedom of Information Law; Activist Landlord Dies"
- Reprinted from N.Y. Property Rights Clearinghouse, Vol. 8, No. 4 (PRFA, Fall 2004)

"Zoning Concepts Don't Seem to Matter in Exclusive Croton-on-Hudson"
- PRFA, Summer 2004
In view of the beautiful Hudson River, well-to-do commuters are buying luxury townhouses adjacent to noisy rail yards that look like industrial sites-at prices from $400,000 to over $1.6 million.

"Assemblyman Prentiss Introduces Bill to Protect Property Owners from Stealth Rules" - PRFA, Summer 2004
A bill called "The Homeowner's Detrimental Reliance Act" (A. 10445) introduced into the New York State Legislature would protect building permit applicants from being hit with citations from state and federal agencies that they never heard about after they complied with a local building permit.

"Should Synagogues That Do Not Allow Driving on the Sabbath be Required to Provide Parking?" - March 2004
Houses of worship are prospering in Flushing, but residents complain about the parking problem. A proposed New York City zoning rule would require all places of worship to provide parking in line with their largest meeting hall, but Orthodox Jews do not drive on the Sabbath.

"Property Rights Legal Foundation Inaugerated"
(PRFA, Oct. 18, 2003)
Attorney Madeline Sheila Galvin announced at the Seventh Annual Conference on Private Property
Rights that the long-envisioned Property Rights Legal Foundation was incorporated in September. The primary purpose of the non-profit organization is "to promote freedom, property rights, civil rights, [and]
constitutionally guaranteed rights."

Samples of Techniques Used to Oppose Restrictive Land Use Laws:

"Dear Neighbor" Letter - By Carol W. LaGrasse, May 20, 2004
This letter was mailed to every household with a Stony Creek address or post office box a few days before the public hearing that the Town Board held about a proposed "Law to Regulate the Storage and Maintenance of Junk Motor Vehicles." As a result of the letter, the town hall was so packed that all seats were filled and people crowded around the back and sides of the room. Mostly new, more well-to-do people in this small town said that they wanted the law, but the vast majority of the people were offended. Many stated their opposition with eloquence.

"My Rules for You" - Poem by Carol W. LaGrasse, May 23,2004
Carol LaGrasse read this poem aloud at the public hearing held by the Stony Creek Town Board for their unwanted proposed "Junk" law designed to control unlicensed vehicles that the people keep for a multitude of reasons.

See Also
See Also

Zoning and Building Codes - National

Smart Growth and Urban Sprawl

Citizens Strategies for Defending Private Property Rights

Essential Books & Publications
Essential Books
& Publications

  "How Subsidized Housing Keeps the Poor Down" Book review by Carol W. LaGrasse, April 9, 2005
Review of: America's Trillion-Dollar Housing Mistake-The Failure of American Housing Policy
By Howard Husock (Ivan R. Dee, Chicago 2003)

Additional Helpful Organizations
Additional Helpful

Pacific Legal Foundation
(litigates important private property rights cases)
address & web site

(national organization of automobile hobbyists, also helps private property owners against zoning)
web site


Additional Resources
Additional Resources

Positions on Property, Vol 3-No. 2 "New Crimes, New Power:
Zoning & Building Codes"

(PRFA, May 1996)

A Wake-Up Call—Organizing for Success, Proceedings of the Fifth Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights, edited by Carol W. LaGrasse, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc.
National leaders and experts reveal essentials about reaching your representative, exposing government to the light of day, effective media work, web outreach, cable television, the successful newsletter, keeping a group together, building coalitions, and fund-raising—all in the context of defending freedom.

"Local Government Handbook, 2000 - Fifth Ed." CD ROM digest of N.Y. State zoning law, available free from New York State Department of State
(518) 473-3355

Committee on Open Government
State of New York
Department of State
Robert J. Freeman, Exec. Dir.
Address and website

"Town Law Manual - For Town Supervisors and Town Boards" (Rev. 2002)
The Association of Towns of the State of New York
A well-organized, thorough compendium of law in ordinary language for town officials - everything from town board meetings, fiscal matters, town legislation, town officers, and employees, to sewer and water improvements, fire protection, and the state environmental quality review act.
(Non-member price: $10.00)

The Association of Towns of the State of New York
Address & Web site

Houston Property Rights Association

Essential Books & Publications
Essential Books
& Publications

James Bovard, Freedom in Chains (St. Martin's Press, 1999)

James Bovard, Lost Rights (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1994)

Bernard H. Siegan, Property and Freedom—The Constitution, The Courts, and land-Use Regulation (Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick 1997)

Bernard H. Siegan, Land Use Without Zoning - (Bartholdi & Lazarus, Houston, 1993)


In-Depth Information

  • Carol W. LaGrasse"Eminent Domain & Land Regulation Should Be Reined In" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., December 2010
    Full report on Fourteenth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights, Lake George, New York, Oct. 23, 2010. John S. Marwell of Shamberg Marwell Davis and Hollis in Mr. Kisco and James E. Morgan of Galvin and Morgan in Delmar discuss how land use regulations and controls push particular people out of communities and prevent certain population groups from moving into communities in the powerful section of the conference on "New York's Troubling Land Use Controls."
  • John S. Marwell"No-Growth Zoning" - By John S. Marwell, Esq., Shamberg Marwell Davis & Hollis, Mt. Kisco, New York, Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    The moratorium is the ultimate no-growth zoning tool, during which a town can institute new planning and zoning requirements, even after an applicant has filed for a permit. Ever-increasing impositions include no use of land said to be wetland, wetland setbacks, steep slopes, viewsheds, even exposed rock outcroppings. Now, "environmental subtractions" can remove these from density computations. Organizing and education to expose the junk science behind new rules is essential. The Vested Rights Bill in the New York State Legislature would protect property owners who have submitted applications from a moratorium and new rules.
  • Alan J. Knauf"Wind Power Meets Zoning" - By Alan J. Knauf, Esq., Knauf Shaw LLP, Rochester, N.Y.; Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    Across New York and the country in zoning boards, planning boards, and in courts, landowners and developers are fighting town officials, NIMBY 's and somewhat hypocritical environmentalists to utilize wind power, an abundant natural resource in upstate New York. This talk outlines the current status of what's going on with wind power and zoning regulation, particularly in upstate New York. One solution may be legislation to supersede local authority.
  • Roman P. Storzer"The Rights of Religious Institutions Facing Zoning and Historic Preservation" - By Roman P. Storzer, Storzer & Greene, P.L.L.C. Washington, D.C.; Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    In no other area is there as much restriction on religious exercise, a First Amendment freedom, than in the land use context, with possibly the exception of prisoners. The federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, RLUIPA, targets landmarking and land use laws. Zoning boards no longer hold all the power. Churches, mosques and temples can go to court and get redress under a relatively strong standard of review.
  • Lolita Buckner Inniss"The Façade of New Urbanism & the Form-Based Code" - By Lolita Buckner Inniss, J.D., L.L.M., Associate Professor of Law, Cleveland-Marshall School of Law, Cleveland State University, Cleveland Ohio, Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    Form-based code, a tool of New Urbanism, is not doing what advocates claim. It tries to create by design what was spontaneous over a century. The "collaborative" charette process, ostensibly based on the "community," is monopolized by a small strand of people, the elite. New Urbanism tries to recreate old urbanism, but old cities like New York existed as a great range of neighborhood characters experienced by different groups of people. Old urban centers were based on wealth and inherently exclusionary. Zoning originated to protect wealthy urban interests. Zoning contributes to the decline of cities by excluding industrial workplaces from areas where workers live.
  • "Zoning and Building Codes: Rules Beyond Reason" - By Carol W. LaGrasse., President, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc., Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    Delivered as the welcome address, this speech gave LaGrasse's overview from personal experience and observations, first as a civil engineer practicing in New York City and over most recent decades involved in private property rights in upstate New York. City zoning serves well-connected interests. The State's regional Adirondack zoning for supposedly environmental purposes is in reality the product of scheming wealthy New York City interests, as well. Building codes have gone far beyond their original purpose to protect public health and safety, to micromanage and obstruct private homeowners' plans.
  • "Certificate of Occupancy without Building Inspection" - By Kenneth Switzer, Rock Stream, N.Y., Select Citizen's Panel-Brief Presentation, Twelfth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 18, 2008)
    Using every imaginable tactic to put pressure on the town officials, Mr. Switzer succeeded in persuading them to allow him to sign a waiver of liability and the town gave him a certificate of occupancy in his seven-year-old house without a building inspection.
  • "Property Rights Around New York" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation of America, Inc. (Speech to the Building & Realty Institute of Westchester and the Mid-Hudson Region, White Plains, N.Y., September 11, 2008)
    On the anniversary of 9/11, the insidious attempt to repeal new building code protections of high-rise office occupants that were the culmination of the work of the best minds in fire protection and engineering points to the true need for government that would protect the economy and property rights of New Yorkers by dealing with dictatorial historic preservation, NIMBY obstruction of local development, utility obstruction, warrantless rental inspections, overzealous wetland protection, free-wheeling eminent domain, and limitless preservation-oriented land acquisition.
  • "Tell Your Story" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (Property Rights Foundation of America Research Form, February 2008)
    Have you been snared by local officials after you made an application for a site plan, subdivision, or building permit? Did they add new regulations that weren't in place when you submitted your application? Please tell your story on this form, which will help illustrate the failure of the current land use and environmental review law, and may help change the law.
  • "You're Asking for It" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, March 2007)
    Local government's disdain for the public, the obstruction of development by local officials, and the willingness of local government to sign away the right of the people to govern locally, while officials assume more power and receive more money, make local government vulnerable to consolidation and regional restructuring.
  • "New York Property Rights Directions"-Speech by Carol W. LaGrasse, Cato Institute Conference-"Property Rights on the March: Where from Here," December 1, 2006, Washington, D.C.
    An overview of where property rights stand in New York, what the directions are, and where the work for our cause has been effective: focusing on the battle to keep land in private hands, holding off extreme land-use regulation, the issue of conservation easements, regional preservationist land-use battles, ubiquitous zoning conflicts; and eminent domain.
  • "A Slew of Property Rights Bills Submitted to State Legislature" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, June 2006)
    Bi-partisan bills in the New York State Legislature tackle eminent domain reform, local permit applicant uncertainty, and uniformity of Adirondack regulations with statewide rules, as well as economic impact of Adirondack Park Agency and DEC planning.
  • "Zoning Is Not The Answer" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, Speech sponsored by Austerlitz Citizens Together (ACT), Spencertown, New York, May 22, 2006
    The other side of rural zoning includes interest-driven preservation grants, unrealistic assumptions about the countryside, formulaistic studies and plans by consultants, and strait jacketing of grandfathered small businesses. Instead, private property rights and freedom should be paramount.
  • "Rules of Engagement"-By Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation of America. Speech to the Ninth Annual National Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, Albany, N.Y., October 22, 2005)
    "First of all, fight to win. Set your goals. Speak your issue clearly to be heard by the government and by those who can follow you," begins Carol LaGrasse's short, to-the-point summary of the basic, essential rules for grassroots success in defending private property rights at every level.
  • "Property Rights, Trails, & Open Space Preservation" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, Speech to the Comprehensive Planning Advisory Committee, Town of Ballston, June 22, 2005
    Private property rights were fundamental to the founders and protected other rights, but a brief chronology shows that U.S. Supreme Court rulings dealing with zoning and open space have both eroded and protected these rights. Trails threaten private property owners with liability and other problems, but reversionary title is protected.
  • "Statement in Opposition to 42-acre Zoning in Town of Queensbury" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, President, Property Rights Foundation of America, Queensbury Town Hall, Queensbury, N.Y., January 10, 2005
    The town board proposed radical, dead-end zoning of 42 acres per lot for 22 percent of the land, the same as the strictest zoning in the Adirondack Park. Section 265 of the Town Law provides for a 3/4 vote of the town board if owners of 20 percent of the affected land object. Low-income workers already have difficulty finding housing, according to a 2003 statement about the success of their open space plan by the town's planner.
  • "Committee on Open Government Assists LaGrasse FOIL Request" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, Dec. 29, 2003)
    Records of citations of rental properties were sought after small landlords in Ellenville complained to PRFA about numerous petty citations. The Village of Ellenville imposed a $300 "administrative fee" in addition to the statutory 25 cents per copy charge.
  • "Property Rights—The Court of Appeals of New York" - By Stuart R. Shamberg, Founder, Shamberg Marwell Hocherman Davis & Hollis, P.C., Seventh Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA, October 18, 2003)
    In 2002, NY's Court of Appeals ruled that courts could not substitute their decision for the determination of the local zoning board if there was any evidence in the administrative record to support its decision.

Stuart R. Shamberg

Stuart R. Shamberg

Photo by
Peter J. LaGrasse
  • "NY State Court of Appeals Favors Applicants for Variances" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (Reprinted from New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, Summer 2003)
    The state's highest court ruled on July 2, 2003 that it is not necessary for an applicant for a variance to show "practical difficulty" or "unnecessary harship," because the state law requiring that the benefit to the applicant be weighed against the detriment to the health, safety and welfare of the community, and other factors, preempts local law establishing stricter standards.
  • "Property Laws are Callous, Bureaucratic" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, Letter to the Editor, Published in the Post- Star, Glens Falls, N.Y., July 24, 2003
    Older women are the victims of property maintenance regulations. It's not surprising that a Hudson Falls building inspector would abuse his power under such a callous ordinance.
  • "Overlapping Jurisdictions Requiring Permits in New York State" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, June 4, 2003
    When applying for a local building permit, property owners are unaware of the multiplicity of local, state, and federal agencies potentially having jurisdiction. The tentative list of over 30 agencies in "Overlapping Jurisdictions" shows the urgent need for a State clearinghouse to provide applicants with an official list of potentially jurisdictional agencies.
  • "Overlapping Jurisdictions Hit Home with Couple's Dream House" - By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, June 2, 2003)
    The Town of Niskayuna failed to warn a young couple about the Corps of Engineers' jurisdiction over wetlands. The State of New York desperately needs a central source for information about the numerous overlapping permit requiring agencies.
  • "Washline Regulators" - Commentary by Carol W. LaGrasse (Reprinted from New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, Summer 2002)
    Southampton,Long Island, officials passed rules imposing fines and jail sentences if residents hang their wash up to dry in full view.
  • "The Wall of Cars" — By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, May 2002)
    Junkyard owner Gene Crandall stacks cars four high for one-quarter mile along his property line, to comply with the Town of Mentz's order to build a fence.

One-quarter mile stack of cars to comply with town fence order

Click to see large photo
Photo by
Kennard Walter, used by permission

William Vojnar

William Vojnar
Photo by
Peter J. LaGrasse
  • "How Zoning was Defeated in Wetmore Township" - Featuring recollections by Andy Rakiecki (Reprinted from New York Property Rights Clearinghouse, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2002)
    Local citizens defending the rural lifestyle in a Pennsylvania town in the area of the Allegheny National Forest used a townwide referendum to get their anti-zoning message across, 399-47.

Maggie and Andy Rakiecki

Maggie and Andy Rakiecki

  • "Long Warwick Zoning Battle Ends" — By Carol W. LaGrasse (PRFA, February 2002)
    Farmers give a little in dispute with urban emigres. Town drops key parts of farm preservation plan, including "Purchase of Development Rights" and "Open Space" zoning.
  • Death by Zoning - by Jack Down, President of Citizens Against Repressive Zoning (C.A.R.Z.) (February 4, 2002)
    Jack Down's moving summary of the roster
    of people killed in recent years because of zoning enforcement.
  • "Farmers Have Private Property Rights—What Does This Mean?" - Carol W. LaGrasse, speech sponsored by "Local," Warwick, N.Y., (PRFA, October 29, 2001)
    This speech, at the invitation of local farmers and landowners, addresses the combined threat of zoning farmland as "Open Space" while pressuring farmers to sell conservation easements, or PDR's (Purchase of Development Rights), to preserve the character of the remaining farmland that suburbanites moving into the area enjoy.
  • "Questions Historic District" - By Carol W. LaGrasse, PRFA, Letter to Editor published in Freeman's Journal, Cooperstown, N.Y., May 7, 1999
    Once a building is placed on the National Historic Register, either individually or as part of a Historic District, the state's Environmental Quality Review Act, SEQRA, mandates that every state and local agency take into account the historic preservation of the building when the agency receives an application for the permit.
  • Thomas A. Miller"Organizing Against Excessive Zoning" - Thomas A. Miller, Founding Member, Allegany Citizens Rights Committee, Allegany, N.Y., from Proceedings of the Third Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights (1998)
  • Gary Vegliante"Founding A New Municipality" - Gary Vegliante, Mayor, Village of Westhampton Dunes, N.Y.. from Proceedings of the Third Annual New York Conference on Private Property Rights (1998)
  • "Effects of Local Ordinances on Forestry" — Gregory M. DeSylva, Consulting Forester, Rhinebeck, New York, from Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference on Private Property Rights (PRFA 1998)
    In spite of selective harvesting and monitoring logging jobs to see that the environment and private property are protected, this consulting forester found that the forest industry is still "given hell," with lengthy permits with outrageous restrictions, excessive bonding, DEC-approved loggers, no-cut zones, and other problems.

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