Richard O’Rourke represents property owners and land development companies in obtaining approvals for retail, commercial and residential development. Through Keane & Beane, he has served as counsel to villages and towns in Westchester, Putnam, Rockland, Dutchess and Ulster Counties, NY. He has successfully challenged and defended decisions of municipal boards in zoning and land use matters, including procedural compliance and substantive determinations of zoning boards of appeal, planning boards and legislative bodies. Mr. O’Rourke also serves as trial and appellate counsel in state and federal courts and represents clients before federal, state and local boards and agencies.
He has represented clients as lead counsel in complex and controversial litigations with favorable outcomes. He represented a land development company in a landmark land use case decided by the New York State Court of Appeals, Riverkeeper Inc. v. Planning Board of Town of Southeast, 9 N.Y.3d 219, 851 N.Y.S.2d 76 (2007), which found no further environmental review under SEQRA was necessary as the requisite “hard look” had been undertaken by the planning board. In addition, he represented the Village of Ardsley and its Mayor in the multi-jurisdictional dispute arising from the utilization of Sprain Road in the Town of Greenburgh and City of Yonkers, In the Matter of Samuel J. Abate Jr., et al. v. City of Yonkers, et al., 264 A.D.3d 517, 694 N.Y.S.2d 724 (2d Dep’t 1999), leave to appeal dismissed, 94 N.Y.2d 834, 703 N.Y.S.2d 66 (1999).
Mr. O’Rourke has met with equal success in obtaining land use and zoning approvals for large projects without the need for litigation. For example, in 2017, all approvals in Dutchess County were obtained for a $1.675 billion electric manufacturing facility using natural gas that will generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity (half that generated by Indian Point). In Putnam County, a state of the art vehicle maintenance and prep center for a leading car dealership gained approval on 13 acres, which also involved zoning amendments, site plan approval and special permits. In Ulster County, a 135,000 square foot home improvement center was approved. And in Westchester County, a 128,564 square foot building and parking structure received all necessary approvals, without the need to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and without litigation.
He is Village Justice for the Village of Brewster, NY, an elected position he has held since 1992. From 1986 to 1989, on behalf of Keane & Beane, Mr. O’Rourke served as Town Attorney of the Town of Southeast, NY. From 1983 to 1986, he was a member and Chairman (1985 to 1986) of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the Town of Southeast. Mr. O’Rourke joined Keane & Beane in 1981 directly from law school, having previously worked in university administration.
Mr. O’Rourke is a frequent lecturer on topics related to land development, litigation and zoning for the New York State Bar Association and the Westchester County Bar Association and the Westchester Municipal Planning Federation, including “Redevelopment and Economic Development After Kelo”, “Administration and Enforcement of Land Use Controls”, “Litigation Update – Land Use and Related Topics” and “New York Environmental Law Practical Skills – State Environmental Law and Land Use Regulation.”
He is co-author with Edward J. Phillips of “Riverkeeper v. Planning Board of the Town of Southeast: The Court of Appeals Reminds Lower Courts Not to Second-Guess SEQRA Determinations”, New York State Bar Association Journal (July/August 2008). He is also author of “Variance Applications and the Zoning Board of Appeals,” Westchester Bar Journal (1985)
Mr. O’Rourke is a member of the Pace Law School Board of Visitors. He also serves on the Executive Committee, currently Secretary, of the Board of Directors of Pattern for Progress. He is a former Member of the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement of Westchester and the Volunteer Service Bureau of Westchester. He also is a Past President and former member of the Brewster Education Foundation.
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