Appellate Court Holds Town Code Did Not Bar Petitioner From Constructing Multiple One-Family Dwellings

Petitioners Boni Enterprises, LLC (“Boni”) and Country Club Acres, Inc. (“CCA”) (collectively “Petitioners”) owned contiguous parcels in the Town of Clifton Park (“Town”). Petitioners submitted an application for site plan review to the Town Planning Board for a plan to build 74 one-family dwellings on Boni’s parcel and 15 commercial buildings (offices, warehouses and flex space) on CCA’s parcel. The Planning Board held it could not consider the application because Respondent Town's Zoning Enforcement Officer Myers (“Myers”) believed there were zoning issues with the plan. The Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”) upheld Myers's interpretation, finding multiple one-family dwellings could not be constructed on Boni's parcel. Petitioners commenced a CPLR article 78 / declaratory judgment action to review the ZBA's determination.  The Supreme Court dismissed the petition, and Petitioners appealed.

On appeal, the Court noted that while courts generally defer to determinations by a zoning board of appeals, no deference is required on questions of pure legal interpretation of the zoning law. Petitioners argued that “buildings” in the last sentence of Town Code § 208–33(B) includes one-family dwellings, thus permitting them to build multiple dwellings on the Boni parcel as long as they comply with density limitations. While the Court agreed with Respondents that the words “building” and “dwelling” were not synonymous or interchangeable, it noted that “dwelling” is a subset of the broader “building.” Thus, the plain language of the Town Code, strictly construed against the municipality, did permit multiple buildings, including one-family dwellings, on a single lot as long as they adhere to the density limitations. Accordingly, the ZBA's determination was annulled to the extent that it incorrectly interpreted that section of the Town Code.

Finally, the Court addressed the issue of notice as to the passage of Local Law No. 8 (1991).  While the notice given here did not state that the proposed ordinance would repeal Local Law No. 2 (1970), it did say that the ordinance would amend the zoning ordinance for two business districts, and identified the geographical area that would be affected, including the CCA parcel.  Accordingly, the Court held that the Town gave adequate notice, having described the proposed ordinance in general terms, and as such, Respondents were entitled to a declaration that Local Law No. 8 was properly enacted. Finally, the Court held the Town’s failure to update its zoning map, which is unofficial and available merely as a reference tool, did not affect the validity of Local Law No. 8.

The case was Boni Enterprises, LLC v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Town of Clifton Park, 124 A.D.3d 1052 (3d Dep’t 2015).

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