In a major decision by the Appellate Division, Third Department, Gabrielli v. Town of New Paltz, the court upheld the Town’s Wetlands and Watercourse Protection Law against SEQRA and constitutional due process challenges. Two key issues raised by the petitioners were whether the wetlands mapping done by the Town before enactment of the law gave landowners sufficient notice of the possible presence of wetlands on their property and whether vernal pools could be regulated. In finding that the mapping was sufficient, the court noted that although the maps were only approximations, the Town had used all available resources in preparing the maps. In addition, the law provided that landowners were entitled to a free wetlands determination on their property by the Town Wetlands Inspector.
In upholding the regulation of vernal pools, the court held that even though vernal pools may exist for only two months out of a year, the definition of a vernal pool was sufficiently precise to give landowners proper notice, again backed by the free determination by the Wetlands Inspector.
Professor Dan Estrin, Pace Law School, who filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Riverkeeper, said in an email to the Town on 4/24, “This decision is very important not only for residents of the Town of New Paltz, but also for so many similarly situated municipalities that may previously have been reluctant to adopt similar local laws out of fear of litigation. We hope the court’s decision today will encourage additional protection of the State’s natural resources by emboldening other municipalities that may previously have been ‘gun-shy.’”