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Denial of Area Variances Upheld

The Appellate Division reversed the lower court and upheld the denial of an application for area variances to construct an apartment building in a neighborhood largely consisting of single family homes. In the Matter of People, Inc. V. City of Tonawanda Zoning Board of Appeals, the Court held that the lower court was in error in granting the petition
The Court restated the standard applicable to reviewing determinations of a zoning board of appeals noting the limitation placed upon a court to determine if there was a rational basis for the challenged decision.

“, when reviewing the denial of an application for an area variance, ‘review [of such a determination] is . . . limited to the issue whether the action taken by the [board] was illegal, arbitrary, or an abuse of discretion’…”

In examining the standards (General City Law section 81-b) for determining whether to grant an area variance, the Court found that constructing an apartment building in a single family neighborhood would cause an undesirable change in the character of the neighborhood. In addition the Court held:

“that the variances necessary to accommodate an apartment building would be substantial …and that the petitioners’ difficulty was self-created because they were aware of the property’s zoning classification when they purchased the property…”

As a result, the Court found that, in denying the application, the Zoning Board properly weighed the benefits to the Petitioner as against the detriment to the neighborhood.

Steven Silverberg