The Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court decided a trilogy of cases on December 27, 2005 relating to a series of determinations by the City of New Rochelle Zoning Board of Appeals to permit construction of an addition to a local religious institution. The cases, Halperin v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals, Richmond v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals and Halperin v. City of New Rochelle broke little new ground but are significant in that together they cover a number of issues related to variances, the standard of review of determinations by zoning boards, the deference accorded religious uses and standards for review under SEQRA, including cumulative impacts and when a supplemental environmental impact statement is required.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the decisions is the holding in Halperin v. City of New Rochelle that a variance for off street parking is an area variance when the proposed uses are otherwise permitted as of right. One argument had been that a variance for off street parking was a use variance requiring the more exacting standards for the granting of use variances. Agreement by the Court with this somewhat novel contention would have made many variance requests, that are otherwise routinely granted, extremely difficult to obtain.
Another potentially significant aspect of the ruling is the Court’s view of cumulative impact review. The Court also held that SEQRA does not mandate a review of cumulative impacts of other nearby developments when those developments are unrelated and not part of a common overall development plan.