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Interpretation of Ambiguous Language in Zoning Ordinance a Question of Fact

The Appellate Division affirmed the denial of summary judgment in an action by a town, seeking to enjoin the use of a property as being in violation of the local zoning ordinance. In Matter of Town of Huntington v. Braun, the court explained the zoning ordinance permits florist shops and nurseries with accessory greenhouses that are defined “as ‘[a]n agricultural enterprise wherein trees or shrubs or other ornamental plants are field-grown for profit.'” The Town claims the business is not in compliance because it sells products that are not “field-grown.”

The Court concluded:

“Possible ambiguities in zoning ordinances are to be construed against the municipality which has enacted them and seeks to enforce them (see Town of Riverhead v Gezari, 63 AD3d 1042; Matter of Rattner v Planning Commn. of Vil. of Pleasantville, 156 AD2d 521, 527; Town of Huntington v Barracuda Transp. Co., 80 AD2d 555). Construction of ambiguous language is an issue of fact that cannot be decided on a motion for summary judgment (see DiLorenzo v Estate Motors, Inc., 22 AD3d 630, 631; Leon v Lukash, 121 AD2d 693, 694).

Here, the Supreme Court properly determined that triable issues of fact regarding ambiguities in the definitions of permitted uses of the premises existed, precluding the award of summary judgment”

-Steven M. Silverberg

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