The Role of “Substantial Evidence” in the Court’s Review of Zoning Board Determinations

Land Use

In Matter of Campbell v. Town of Mount Pleasant Zoning Bd. of Appeals, 2011 NY Slip Op 04459 (2d Dept. May 24, 2011), the Petitioner commenced a C.P.L.R. Article 78 Proceeding to challenge the determination of the Town of Mount Pleasant Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”), which denied the Petitioner’s application for area variances.  The Westchester County Supreme Court denied the ZBA’s motion to dismiss the petition pursuant to CPLR 3211(a)(4) and 7804(f), and granted the petition, thereby, annulling the determination, and remitting the matter to the Town of Mount Pleasant Zoning Board of Appeals to grant the variances.  The ZBA appealed the decision, but the Appellate Division affirmed the lower Court, finding that “the Supreme Court correctly determined that the ZBA’s determination did not have a rational basis in the record, and that the determination was, therefore, arbitrary and capricious.” Id. at 2.

In reaching its decision, the Court analyzed the “substantial evidence” standard with regard to zoning proceedings commenced under Article 78.  The Court stated that “‘the substantial evidence’ standard of review is inapplicable to a zoning board’s determination of an application for an area variance, since such a determination is not made after a hearing at which evidence is taken pursuant to direction of law” (Matter of Matejko v Board of Zoning Appeals of Town of Brookhaven, 77 AD3d at 949; see CPLR 7803[4]). Rather, ‘[w]hen reviewing the determinations of a Zoning Board, courts consider substantial evidence’ only to determine whether the record contains sufficient evidence to support the rationality of the Board’s determination’ (Matter of Sasso v Osgood, 86 NY2d at 384 n 2; see Matter of Matejko v Board of Zoning Appeals of Town of Brookhaven, 77 AD3d at 949; Matter of Halperin v City of New Rochelle, 24 AD3d at 769-770).”  Campbell at 1-2.

The Court found, “[h]ere, as the Supreme Court correctly observed, there was no evidence in the record to support the ZBA’s finding that the granting of the variances here would result in a negative impact on the physical and environmental conditions in the neighborhood, increased traffic and parking problems, and the creation of safety issues. Moreover, the evidence does not support the ZBA’s determination that the granting of the variances would have the effect of altering the character of the neighborhood. Consequently, under the circumstances presented here, the Supreme Court properly concluded that the ZBA’s determination denying the petitioners’ application for two area variances lacked a rational basis [citations omitted].” Campbell at 2.

For the full text of the Court’s decision, see Matter of Campbell v. Town of Mount Pleasant Zoning Bd. of Appeals, 2011 NY Slip Op 04459 (2d Dept. May 24, 2011).

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