A state Supreme Court judge has ruled in favor of Oyster Bay Town, blocking an effort by the owner of a former Hampton Inn hotel on Jericho Turnpike to convert it to a transitional housing facility for about 80 homeless families.
The ruling came nearly two months after the plan became public, prompting multiple rallies from mainly opponents — who said it lacked transparency and could further crowd the school district — and questions from Nassau County legislators.
Supporters reiterated the benefits the facility would offer families in crisis, including services that would help them find permanent housing.
On Monday, State Supreme Court Justice Arthur M. Diamond, ruling from Mineola, granted a preliminary injunction that ordered the property owner to halt construction and use of the property as a homeless shelter. The judge rejected the defendant’s argument that state law preempts local zoning regulations when it comes to establishing a care facility for the homeless.
"There is not any authority, either statutory or case law, in support of the proposition that this interest allows an operator to locate a facility anywhere it can obtain a contract to do so without even attempting to adhere to local zoning and use laws," Diamond wrote.
The judge also said the temporary restraining order he put in place in August to stop the conversion will "remain in full force," pending further notice from the court.
"The preliminary injunction granted by the court is great news and recognizes the town’s legal authority to regulate local development," Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino wrote Wednesday in an emailed statement.
In early August, Oyster Bay sued 120 Westend LLC, which purchased the property at 120 Jericho Tpke. in July for $13.5 million, alleging that converting the property into a shelter would violate the town’s zoning codes.
The facility was to be operated by Community Housing Innovations Inc., a nonprofit that has offices in White Plains and Patchogue, with funding from the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.
Alexander Roberts, the nonprofit’s executive director, called the ruling "very disappointing."
"The judge’s ruling throws out decades of precedents that the state preempts local zoning," Roberts said. "Based on his logic, none of the approximately 100 homeless shelters on Long Island would be legal because they have no local use permits."
Attorneys for the property owner did not respond to a request for comment.
The community group Concerned Jericho Parents held a rally Wednesday morning at the former hotel site to celebrate the court ruling.
"We really feel vindicated by the judge’s decision," said Marc Albert, a member of the group, in a phone interview. "You can’t just come into a town and completely disregard the town’s laws that have been set forth to protect the safety of this community as this developer did."