The Second Department, remitting the matter to the zoning board of appeals, noted that Supreme Court should not have considered the merits of petitioners’ application for renewal of a variance because the board did not address the merits. The board denied the application under the doctrine of res judicata which the parties agreed was not applicable:
The Supreme Court improperly, in effect, denied the petition and dismissed the proceeding after reviewing the merits of the subject portion of the petitioners’ application. In considering the petitioners’ request to renew the use variance allowing the subject property to be used as a two-family dwelling without the condition that the subject property be owner-occupied, the Board did not reach the merits of that portion of the application. Instead, the Board relied upon the doctrine of res judicata to deny the petitioners’ request for renewal of the use variance without an owner-occupied condition and stated that, as a result, it was not engaging in an analysis of the merits of imposing an owner-occupied condition, which had been rendered academic. On appeal, the parties do not challenge the court’s determination that the Board’s reliance upon the doctrine of res judicata was improper.
However, upon concluding that the Board improperly invoked the doctrine of res judicata, the Supreme Court should not have then analyzed the merits of the subject portion of the petitioners’ application. “Judicial review of an administrative determination is limited to the grounds invoked by the agency in making its decision” … . “If the grounds relied upon by the agency are inadequate or improper, a reviewing court is powerless to affirm the administrative action by substituting what it considers to be a more adequate or proper basis” … . Matter of Rodriguez v Weiss, 2017 NY Slip Op 02794, 2nd Dept 4-12-17
ZONING (BECAUSE THE ZONING BOARD DID NOT ADDRESS THE MERITS OF AN APPLICATION FOR A VARIANCE, SUPREME COURT COULD NOT ADDRESS THE MERITS)/ADMINISTRATIVE LAW (ZONING, BECAUSE THE ZONING BOARD DID NOT ADDRESS THE MERITS OF AN APPLICATION FOR A VARIANCE, SUPREME COURT COULD NOT ADDRESS THE MERITS)