Court finds a Detached Eight Car Garage is not an Accessory Structure under the Town of Yorktown Code

Land Use

Just because a structure like a garage is typically considered an “accessory” building in common word usage, that does not make it an “accessory structure” for zoning purposes.

Petitioner, a neighboring property owner, commenced an Article 78 Proceeding against the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Yorktown (the “ZBA”), to challenge the ZBA’s determination that an applicant’s proposed detached garage, designed to accommodate eight or nine automobiles, that was nearly double the side of the applicant’s residence would be an accessory structure under the Town Code and would not require any area variances.  The Court found that the garage was not an accessory structure as defined under the code, as it was not “customarily incidental” to homes in the area.  Further, the Court found that area variances were required under the code due to the height of the garage.  Matter of Witkowich v Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Town of Yorktown, 2011 NY Slip Op 04261 (2d Dept. 2011).

 In support of its decision, the Court found that “the determination of the ZBA that the proposed garage constituted a permitted ‘accessory’ building, as defined by Town of Yorktown Zoning Ordinance § 300-3[B], is not rationally based. That ordinance defines an “accessory” building as a ‘subordinate building . . . the use of which is customarily incidental to that of a main building on the same lot.’” Witkowich at 2.

 The Court found that there is “insufficient evidence to support a finding that the use of structures of this size as garages is ‘customarily incidental’ to residential homes in the subject neighborhood.”  Witkowich at 2.  Further, “[a]lthough a zoning board may properly rely upon personal knowledge of board members regarding the characteristics of a neighborhood (see Matter of Thirty W. Park Corp. v Zoning Bd. of Appeals of City of Long Beach, 43 AD3d 1068, 1069; Matter of North Shore F.C.P., Inc. v Mammina, 22 AD3d 759, 760), here, there is no indication that the members of the ZBA relied on evidence of any specific accessory structures in the neighborhood, or as to the dimensions or uses of any such structures.”  Witkowich at 2.

 “Under these circumstances, the ZBA lacked a rational evidentiary basis to support its finding that the proposed garage constitutes a permissible accessory building, within the meaning of the subject zoning ordinance. Accordingly, the ZBA’s determination was arbitrary and capricious (see Matter of Porianda v Amelkin, 115 AD2d 650, 650-651; see also Matter of Presnell v Leslie, 3 NY2d 384, 387-388; Matter of J & M Harriman Holding Corp. v Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Vil. of Harriman, 62 AD3d 705, 706-707).”  Witkowich at 2.

 In addition, the Court found that even if the proposed garage would have constituted an accessory structure under the code, it would nevertheless required area variances to be built.  “Pursuant to the subject zoning ordinance, an accessory building must be no more than 15 feet in height (see Town of Yorktown Zoning Ordinance § 300-21, Appendix A). The relevant zoning ordinance further provides that an accessory building over 15 feet in height must be located 25 feet from the main building on the site . . .”  The plans for the proposed garage show that the height, as measured from the base of the proposed structure itself, would be over 15 feet. Since there was no evidence in the record to support the ZBA’s determination that the garage would be less than 15 feet high under any definition, that determination was arbitrary and capricious. . .”  Id.

Accordingly, the Court reversed the ZBA’s decision, and vacated the Building Permit issued by the Town Building Inspector for the proposed garage.

For the full text of the Court’s decision, see Matter of Witkowich v. Zoning Board of Appeals.


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