The idea that local land use law can intelligently shape settlement patterns was not a familiar concept in the late 1960s when the Town of Ramapo, New York adopted an ordinance that delayed development permits until the Town could provide needed infrastructure. Ramapo was experiencing unprecedented growth as one of the closest northern suburbs of New York City. Developers, who in some cases had to wait years for services to their land, sued; they argued that these phased development controls were intended to prohibit subdivisions and restrict population growth, which is not authorized under the state’s zoning enabling legislation.
New York’s highest court disagreed, holding that “phased growth is well within the ambit of existing enabling legislation.” The court found that Ramapo was not acting to close its borders to growth, but was trying to prevent the negative effects of uncontrolled growth. It found that Ramapo’s zoning was not in violation of the Federal or New York State Constitutions because a rational basis for phased growth exists where “the existing physical and financial resources of the community are inadequate to furnish the essential services and facilities which a substantial increase in population requires.
John R. Nolon, Zoning’s Centennial: A Complete Account of the Evolution of Zoning into a Robust System of Land Use Law—1916-2016 (Part II), Zoning & Plan. L. Rep., Nov. 2016, at 1, http://digitalcommons.pace.edu/lawfaculty/1037/.