NCLEJ Wins Appeal: Towns Cannot Interfere with Low-Income Family Day Care

On September 27, 2013, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department affirmed a decision by the Supreme Court, Cayuga County, that local zoning laws that would have effectively barred family day care are unenforceable because state law preempts local regulation of family day cares. Tedde Tasheff and Jenny Pelaez are counsel in the case, Town of Throop v. Christine Cordway.

Family day care (or care provided in-home by a family) helps low-income parents support their families by providing affordable child care while also giving day care providers the chance to earn a living from home. The New York State Legislature passed a comprehensive set of laws to promote the establishment of family day cares out of a recognition of the critical shortage of quality and affordable day care throughout New York State and the hardship this poses to low-income families and particularly working mothers. New York law fully provides for the regulation of family day care and expressly prohibits local governments from enacting any law that would improperly interfere with the operation of the family day care.

NCLEJ represented the plaintiff, Christine Cordway, after the Town of Throop issued her a ticket for running a family day care without obtaining a local zoning permit. The Town Court found Ms. Cordway in violation of Town zoning laws and would have required her to agree to provisions that violate state law to operate. NCLEJ appealed that decision. On March 16, 2012, the Supreme Court of Cayuga County reversed and vacated the Town Court decision, and held that the Town zoning laws are not enforceable because the zoning laws conflict with State laws.

The Town appealed the decision of the Supreme Court to the Appellate Division, Fourth Judicial Department. Dodyk Fellow for Economic Justice Jenny Pelaez argued the case before the Fourth Department on September 12, 2013. On September 27, 2013, the Fourth Department unanimously affirmed the decision of the Supreme Court.

Case Update: Following the Fourth Department decision, NCLEJ continued to advocate for Ms. Cordway and other family day care providers. In July 2014, the Throop Town Board committed to return fees to Ms. Cordway and all other individuals who paid to obtain a Town permit to run a family day care.