SHIRLEY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A family is in a zoning battle on Long Island after they say their land was rendered practically worthless.

Two sisters bought land in Suffolk County, a three-hour drive away from their home. Now, the family says they’ve lost a lifetime investment because of a change in law that was posted only in the back of a county newspaper.

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Jennie Grosso, 92, was banking on the property for her golden years.

“Hoping some day, either we’ll make some money on it or retire here,” she told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

But that plan has lost all luster.

“Right now, what they tell me, it’s worthless,” Grosso said.

The lot she and her husband bought 70 years ago in Shirley, New York, is practically worthless because of a zoning change she claims she knew nothing about.

She just continued paying tax bills on the property, which arrived every year.

“I paid taxes since 1951,” Grosso said.

It’s the same story on the adjacent lot bought by Grosso’s sister, a family investment.

“We have been paying taxes on these properties for 69 years and they were sold to us as buildable lots,” niece Theresa Licitra said.

Not anymore.

Building is no longer allowed on the two lots, which are only 50 feet wide. The town of Brookhaven changed the zoning back in 1988.

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Licitra says they “got nothing” from the town about a zoning change at the time.

Now their application to build has been denied. Offers to develop the lots have been as high as $90,000.

“It’s just a downright disgrace … We sacrificed all those years to make sure these taxes were paid,” Licitra said. “How can they just turn around, change the law and never inform us?”

The town of Brookhaven wouldn’t speak on camera but says it followed the law.

The 1988 rezoning is the largest in its history. Thousands of properties were up-zoned to protect wetlands and groundwater.

Town code does not require individual property owners be notified by mail for such a large rezoning. Instead, public hearing notices were posted in local papers.

“Nobody reads them,” Larry Davis, with Attorney For Property Owners, said. “They didn’t mail them, and these people lived in New Jersey. There was really no way for them to have any notification that there was an up-zoning here … Of course that’s not fair.”

There’s a hard lesson in this, says municipal law expert Tom Wassel. Zoning laws are ever-changing.

Owners may have months to contest a zoning change, but not 30 years.

“It’s difficult being an absentee owner. If that’s the case, it’s certainly a life lesson that people should be aware of what goes on in their communities. But realistically, how many of us actually look at those legal notices in the newspaper?” Wassel said.

The family lost their first appeal. Brookhaven town attorney Annette Eaderesto released the following statement: “The court decision speaks for itself and confirms the zoning board’s decision.”

The family is appealing to a higher court and prepared to challenge it as essentially the taking of their land without fair compensation, a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

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Other houses in the neighborhood were built prior to the 1988 zoning change.