The Fourth Department, sending the matter back to the Town Board for the second time in this variance proceeding, determined the board’s failure make adequate findings of fact and explain the reasons for its decision precluded appellate review:
Generally, “[f]indings of fact which show the actual grounds of a decision are necessary for an intelligent judicial review of a quasi-judicial or administrative determination” … . Here, we conclude that the Town Board has once again precluded intelligent judicial review of its determination inasmuch as its “purported findings of fact are speculative and mere conclusions and contain very little[, if any,] factual matter” … . The Town Board “must do more than merely restate the terms of the applicable ordinance” and the procedural history preceding and subsequent to the determination; rather, the Town Board must set forth “findings of the facts essential to its conclusion” to grant the variance in the first instance—i.e., the determination that is the subject of the appeal … . Given that the Town Board has “failed to articulate the reasons for its determination and failed to set forth …, we continue to hold the case, reserve decision and remit the matter to the Town Board to properly set forth the factual basis for its determination within 30 days of the date of entry of the order of this Court. We remind the parties that “[a]n attorney or party who fails to comply with a[n] . . . order of th[is C]ourt . . . shall be subject to such sanction as [we] may impose” upon motion or our own initiative after the attorney or party has a reasonable opportunity to be heard (22 NYCRR 1250.1 [h]). Matter of Guttman v Covert Town Bd., 2023 NY Slip Op 01632, Fourth Dept 3-24-23
Practice Point: An appellate court cannot review a Town Board’s ruling in a variance proceeding when the board does not explain its ruling and make findings of fact. Here the matter was sent back to the board for its reasons and findings of fact for a second time, under threat of sanctions.