Second Department Reverses Trial Court: Cottage is not a Nonconforming Use
April 17, 2017
On April 5, 2017, in an Article 78 proceeding, Tavano v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Patterson, 2017 NY Slip Op 02661, the Second Department reversed a trial court decision and reinstated a decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of Patterson. The zoning board had granted petitioner Tavano’s application to establish a legal non-conforming use of a second building on his property, referred to as the “cottage.”
Tavano argued that the cottage located at his property was a leased residential dwelling and that its use preexisted the Town’s 1942 zoning ordinance, which provided that “a building, structure, or premises could be used as a rooming or boarding house so long as there were no more than three boarders or roomers.” Id.
In reversing the trial court’s finding, the Appellate Division noted that petitioner owned property in Brewster that is improved with a single family dwelling constructed in 1947 and a cottage constructed in 1955. Tavano lived in the single family dwelling and rented the cottage.
Although the Appellate Division did not affirmatively state that its decision rested on the fact that the cottage was constructed in 1955, well after the 1942 zoning ordinance was enacted, and thus, Tavano could not establish entitlement to a legal nonconforming use, the Court did state that “to establish a legal nonconforming use, a property owner must demonstrate that the allegedly preexisting use was legal prior to the enactment of the zoning ordinance that purportedly rendered it nonconforming.”
Here, and without benefit of the trial court opinion, it appears that the relevant question was not only whether the cottage was constructed prior to enactment of the 1942 ordinance, but also whether Tavano’s use of the cottage constituted use as a rooming or boarding house.
In reinstating the zoning board’s decision, the Appellate Division relied upon the long-standing legal principle that ‘[t]he determination of a zoning board regarding the continuation of a preexisting nonconfirming use must be sustained if it is rational and supported by substantial evidence, even if the reviewing court would have reached a different result”
Consequently, and as all land use lawyers will attest, even if the trial court or reviewing court would have reached a different result than that zoning board, deference is to be afforded to the zoning board. Finding that the “ZBA’s determination that the cottage did not constitute a rooming or boarding house under the 1942 zoning ordinance was not arbitrary or capricious”, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court and reinstated the zoning board’s decision.