Court Finds Rational Basis Existed For ZBA To Deny Area Variances For Setbacks

In 2009, Petitioners purchased property in the Town of Southampton. Petitioners built a house on the lot, with a pool, deck, and trellis in the front yard, and an accessory structure with a barbecue, sink, cabinets, countertop, and refrigerator under the trellis. In December 2012, Petitioners' application for a building permit was denied as the accessory structure, deemed a kitchen, was not permitted in the front yard. Petitioners then filed an application with the Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”) seeking a setback and area variances for the accessory structure. After a hearing, the ZBA denied the application. Petitioners then commenced instant Article 78 proceeding to review the ZBA's determination. The Supreme Court determined that the ZBA's decision lacked a rational basis and was arbitrary and capricious, granted the petition, and remitted the matter to the ZBA to grant the requested variances.

On appeal, the Appellate Division noted that the ZBA was not required to justify its decision with supporting evidence for each of the five statutory factors, so long as its determination balancing the relevant considerations was rational. Here, the evidence in the record supported the ZBA's findings that the variances were substantial, would produce an undesirable change in the character of the neighborhood, that the petitioners could use a portable unit as an alternative, and that any hardship was self-created. The Court also found that the three prior ZBA determinations Petitioners submitted in support of their application did not constitute precedent from which the ZBA was required to explain a departure, as Petitioners failed to establish that those applications bore sufficient factual similarity to their own. Accordingly, the Supreme Court’s decision to annul the ZBA's determination was reversed.

The case was Kramer v Zoning Board of Appeals of Southampton, 131 A.D. 3d 1170 (2d Dep’t 2015).

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