In 1971, when Stuart R. Shamberg established the law firm that was the first generation of today’s Hollis Laidlaw & Simon, it was a time of rapid growth and development in Westchester County. A former builder himself, Shamberg quickly became known for representing property owners of all types and sizes seeking to develop their properties.
Shamberg, who partnered with Martin Bender in the mid-1970’s, secured the firm’s reputation in Land Use & Zoning law when he served as lead counsel in the 1977 landmark case, Berenson v. Town of New Castle, which allowed the development of 3,500 multifamily housing units in the Town of New Castle and eliminated exclusionary zoning in the State of New York. With the addition of Partner John S. Marwell, who joined the practice in 1978 and retired in 2020, the suburban firm continued to rise to prominence.
Now 50 years since its founding, the firm’s Land Use & Zoning Practice is still thriving. Partner Dan Hollis has proudly built upon the foundation laid by Shamberg, Bender, and Marwell, handling some of the firm’s most significant land use and zoning matters since joining in 1990. “I’m trying to not only honor the legacy of Stu, Marty, and John, but to live up to it every day and extend it,” said Hollis.
Today’s Land Use team, which also includes Managing Partner David Simon and Associate Sara O’Shea, continues to represent developers and property owners across the economic spectrum in the zealous defense of their property rights. The team works collaboratively with their clients, and their architects, engineers, and other development professionals, to help them develop approvable projects. Hollis explained, “We help determine the efficacy of our clients’ plans up front and work to submit plans that will meet their objectives but also have the greatest likelihood of approval.”
The Land Use team has advised on a diverse range of projects, including representing major private education institutions seeking to attain permits to implement essential additions to their campuses during the Covid epidemic; representing several fire districts in the approval process to allow them to build new or additional structures; representing a major Hudson Valley cultural institution in its attempt to relocate to a permanent location within the same municipality; and representing numerous private individuals in their attempts to better their properties – whether big or small – in communities around the Hudson Valley, from Yonkers to northern Orange County.
The firm also assists clients in gifting real property to land conservancy organizations at the local, regional, state, or national levels. These gifts can reduce taxes, eliminate or reduce the burden of property management, and contribute to conservation efforts, among other client benefits. Plans are developed to meet client objectives, considering gifts ranging from entire parcels to easements. The firm works closely with engineers and appraisers to maximize the value of those gifts.
While Hollis Laidlaw & Simon does not typically take opposition work in zoning and planning matters, as they prefer to keep a professional consistency in representing property owners, they do make an occasional exception. “We will not hesitate to get involved when we see a proposal that would egregiously harm the community,” said Hollis.
For example, the firm recently became involved in an opposition matter when a municipality amended its zoning ordinance to allow a commercial or industrial use in a zone dedicated to conservation and preservation. Hollis explained the firm’s motivation for taking the case: “People paid a premium for their homes in this area with the understanding that there would be no development around them. For a municipality to reverse course and entertain development in a previously designated conservation zone was patently unfair to the neighboring landowners.”
Hollis also took the side of opposition when an individual bought a home in a residential 2-acre subdivision zoned for single-family residences and started a religious school for 150 students without first obtaining necessary municipal approvals. “Not only was that violative of zoning, but the owner also violated a restrictive covenant that limited his lot to residential use,” said Hollis. “When the neighbors came to me with that case, it bothered me, so we took it.”With his straightforward and principled approach to bringing his clients’ projects across the finish line, Hollis proudly upholds Stu Shamberg’s original vision.“We are just as committed to providing quality representation of individuals and institutions in protecting their property rights as Stu was 50 years ago,” he said.