Court Reiterates Authority of Zoning Board to Interpret Local Zoning Code

A local zoning board’s interpretation of the application of a zoning ordinance provision to a particular property shall be upheld unless that interpretation is “unreasonable or irrational.” In Kennedy v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the Village of Patchogue, the appellate division reiterated this rule while upholding the zoning board’s application of a specific provision of the zoning code to the property in question.

The local code requires that when a variance is granted “improvement, construction or alteration” must be “substantially commenced” within one year of obtaining the variance. In this case a variance had been granted and a neighbor challenged the continuation of the variance because more than a year had passed, a building permit had been granted but only site clearing had begun. The zoning board interpreted the term “substantially commenced” as being met by merely obtaining a building permit.

In upholding the interpretation by the zoning board, the Court noted that judicial review of such decisions is limited to determining whether the decision was “illegal, arbitrary and capricious or an abuse of discretion.” The Court found the interpretation to be reasonable and rational and therefore should be affirmed.

The decision is consistent with precedent, although the application in this case is interesting. Since many ordinances, although apparently not this one, specifically distinguish between issuing a building permit and commencing construction, it seems strained to equate “substantially” commencing construction with issuing a building permit.