The Third Department determined Supreme Court had properly annulled a finding by the zoning board of appeals that petitioner was not excepted from business-district, retail-space, zoning requirements. Petitioner contracted to buy property in the business district to be used to provide a WIC nutrition program for low income women and their children, a Head Start program, a Community Services Department for emergency needs of families, and a Weatherization program for families. The village zoning ordinance included an exception to the retail-space requirement in the business district for “vital human services.” In finding that the uses proposed by the petitioner fit the business-district zoning exception for “vital human services,” the court explained the criteria for the judicial interpretation of a zoning ordinance:
The phrase “Vital human services” is defined in the ordinance as “any health related services such as doctors, dentists, physical therapists, hair and skin care and other necessary human services” … . * * *
“When a reviewing court is confronted with an allegedly ambiguous zoning law, it generally will grant great deference to [a zoning board of appeals’] interpretation thereof – disturbing such interpretation only if it is irrational and unreasonable” … . By the same token, zoning restrictions are in derogation of the common law and, as such, are strictly construed against the regulating municipality and “any ambiguity in the language employed must be resolved in favor of the property owner [or, here, the contract vendee]” … . Where the dispute presents a question of pure legal interpretation of an unambiguous provision or phrase in a zoning ordinance, “deference is not required” … .
Here, to the extent that “[v]ital human services,” which include “any health related services” and “other necessary human services,” is a somewhat ambiguous phrase, it will be construed in petitioner’s favor. A statute such as a zoning ordinance must be “construed as a whole, reading all of its parts together,” all of which should be harmonized to ascertain legislative intent, and it should be given its plain meaning, avoiding a construction that renders superfluous any language in the ordinance… . Matter of Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, Inc v Village of Ballston Spa Zoning Board of Appeals, 516536, 3rd Dept 12-5-13