Court’s Review Powers Re: a Zoning Board’s Interpretation of an Ordinance Explained—Reviewing Court Need Not Defer to the Board’s Ruling on a Purely Legal Issue/Here Zoning Board Properly Interpreted the Ordinance—Criteria Explained
Reversing Supreme Court, the Second Department determined the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) had properly found that a “tire sales and automotive repair” business was a “conditional use,” not a “permitted use,” within the meaning of the Village Code. A “conditional use” requires a conditional use permit and site plan approval. The court explained its review powers in this context and the statutory interpretation criteria it applied. The reviewing court need not defer to the agency’s ruling on a purely legal question (here the meaning of the applicable code provisions). The ordinance must be read as a whole and no language should be rendered superfluous:
” In a proceeding pursuant to CPLR article 78 to review a determination of a zoning board of appeals, judicial review is limited to ascertaining whether the action was illegal, arbitrary and capricious, or an abuse of discretion'” … . “[Z]oning restrictions, being in derogation of common-law property rights, should be strictly construed, and any ambiguities are to be resolved in favor of the property owner” … .
A zoning board’s interpretation of its zoning ordinance is generally entitled to great deference … . However, where, as here, “the issue involves pure legal interpretation of statutory terms, deference is not required” … . Pursuant to our independent review of the law, we conclude that the ZBA’s determination complied with applicable legal principles … .
Under the Zoning Code, uses permitted as of right (hereinafter permitted uses) and conditional uses are set forth in accompanying zoning schedules. The uses listed in column A of the applicable schedules “are permitted by right,” while the uses listed in column C “are permitted only on approval of the Planning Board, and are conditioned to [sic] special requirements that may be imposed to ensure compatibility with neighboring uses” (Code of the Village of Monroe § 200-15[B]). Zoning Schedule I-F is applicable to the GB District. The permitted uses enumerated in column A of the Table of Use Requirements of Zoning Schedule I-F include, among others, “retail sales” (Item 17) and “repair service, including automotive” (Item 16). However, column C lists “tire sales and service” (Item 4) among the conditional uses. Section 200-3 of the Code of the Village of Monroe provides that “[i]n the event of conflict in the terminology of any section or part thereof of this chapter, the more restrictive provisions shall control” … .
“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 Robert E. Havell Revocable Trust v Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Vil. of Monroe, 2015 NY Slip Op 03369, 2nd Dept 4-22-15