Second Department Affirms Denial of Religious Organization’s Application for Conditional Use Permit
April 05, 2021
In Matter of Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Ctr., Inc. v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of the Inc. Vil. of Brookville, the Second Department reviewed a local zoning board’s denial of an applicant’s request to expand and improve the facilities on its property. The applicant/petitioner, Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center, Inc. (“Petitioner”), is a “nonprofit nonsectarian Jewish organization” that uses its property to operate a day school and camp. Petitioner’s property is located in a district zoned predominately for single-family houses and “certain conditional uses.”
In 2014, Petitioner applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Incorporated Village of Brookville (the “ZBA”) for a conditional use permit allowing certain proposed improvements on its property. Over the next couple years, five public hearings on the application were held. In January, 2017, the ZBA ultimately denied Petitioner’s application, but did not provide a basis for doing so. It was not until after Petitioner commenced an Article 78 proceeding challenging the denial that the ZBA issued a decision explaining its reasoning.
In its decision, the ZBA explained that Petitioner’s use of the property as a day school and camp did not constitute a conditional use under the applicable zoning code, and further concluded that Petitioner’s proposal would negatively impact the surrounding neighborhood. Petitioner subsequently amended its Article 78 Petition to address the ZBA’s decision, but the proceeding was dismissed nonetheless. Petitioner appealed.
The Second Department ultimately affirmed that dismissal, concluding that there existed a rational basis to support the ZBA’s determination. The use of Petitioner’s property as a day school and camp was not religious or educational in nature. The mere fact that Petitioner is a religious organization does not change that conclusion. “[T]he activities and programs offered at the Day School and Camp are standard recreational activities that are offered at any summer camp.” Further, the activities offered by the camp “are predominately athletic and recreational,” rather than academic or religious, nor is the staff employed by the camp qualified to offer academic or educational instruction. Accordingly, Petitioner’s proposed use was not entitled to deferential zoning treatment, and thus, the ZBA’s denial of Petitioner’s application was proper.