Boards Have Broad Discretion To Decide Variances

December 02, 2019

Several years after the July 1, 1992 effective date of amendments to the New York State Town Law establishing a statutory standard for local zoning boards to use when considering applications for area variances, the New York Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sasso v. Osgood, 86 N.Y.2d 374 (1995). Although the court decided a number of important issues in Sasso, its conclusion was perhaps the most significant. The court upheld the zoning board’s decision granting area variances to a property owner, finding that the determination was supported by “photographs and other materials in the record” and was “not irrational, arbitrary or capricious.”

Two additional precedent-setting rulings by the court in subsequent cases involving challenges to zoning board decisions on applications for area variances—Ifrah v. Utschig, 98 N.Y.2d 304 (2002), and Pecoraro v. Board of Appeals of Town of Hempstead, 2 N.Y.3d 608 (2004)—also upheld zoning board decisions. These latter cases involved decisions denying applications for area variances.

Anthony S. Guardino, a partner with the law firm of Farrell Fritz, P.C., practices in the areas of land use, zoning, and environmental law. Resident in the firm’s office in Hauppauge, Long Island, he can be reached at aguardino@farrellfritz.com.

Reprinted with permission from New York Law Journal, Wednesday, November 27, 2019, Vol 262 – No. 104

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