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Court Interpretes Zoning Ordinance


The complainant operates a manufactured home park on real estate he owns in a residential zone in Chemung County. Residents of the park place manufactured homes on lots leased from the complainant. A New York Probate Lawyer said in 2009, the complainant’s estate administration manager approached the accused, the Town Enforcement Officer, to inquire about obtaining a building permit to install a manufactured home owned by the complainant on a lot in the park to be offered for sale to the public. The accused Town Enforcement Officer advised the complainant that the proposal was a commercial use prohibited by the Town Zoning Code. The complainant then applied to the Town Zoning Board of Appeals for an interpretation of the ordinance. After a public hearing, the Zoning Board of Appeals determined that the complainant’s proposed use was prohibited. The complainant commenced the proceeding to annul the determination and Supreme Court dismissed the petition. The complainant appealed.

The Town Zoning Code defines a manufactured home park as a parcel of land under single ownership which is improved for the placement of mobile homes and manufactured homes for non-transient use and which is offered to the public of two or more mobile and manufactured homes. In a provision entitled Commercial Sale of Mobile and Manufactured Homes, the zoning ordinance provides that a mobile and manufactured home park shall be established for the purpose of permitting habitation of such mobile or manufactured homes. Bronx Probate Lawyers said no sales lot or area shall be used for the purpose of selling mobile or manufactured homes. Relying upon the emphasized language, the Zoning Board of Appeals found that the complainant’s proposal to place an unoccupied manufactured home on a lot for sale would have the effect of transforming the said residential lot into a dedicated lot or area for the commercial sale of a mobile home and was an illegal commercial sale of a mobile home within a residential district. The Zoning Board of Appeals further distinguished the complainant’s proposal from sales of mobile homes by individual owners in anticipation of moving and finding that such casual sales did not violate the ordinance but nonetheless would have to be monitored on a case by case basis.

The Supreme Court accorded deference to the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals, but that heightened standard was not merited. Brooklyn Probate Lawyers said a fact-based interpretation of a zoning ordinance that determines its application to a particular use of property is entitled to great deference. However, deference is not required when reviewing a pure legal interpretation of terms in an ordinance. The meaning of the term sales lot or area in the ordinance at issue presents a purely legal question in which no deference to the Zoning Board of Appeal’s interpretation is required.

A statute or ordinance is to be construed as a whole, reading all of its parts together to determine the legislative intent and to avoid rendering any of its language superfluous. Unambiguous language is to be construed to give effect to its plain meaning. Applying these principles to this ordinance, its plain language does not support the Zoning Board of Appeal’s interpretation.

The purpose of the complainant’s proposal — by which a manufactured or mobile home would be affixed to a residential lot within the park and then sold to be inhabited on that lot — is plainly that of habitation. Thus, it does not fall within the use prohibited by the ordinance — that is, the designation of a sales lot or area that has no residential purpose, but is dedicated instead to the display of model homes to be inspected by potential buyers and ultimately resided in elsewhere. To construe the language otherwise would render the adjective sales in the phrase sales lot or area superfluous. As the complainant’s proposed use does not violate the Town Zoning Code, the Supreme Court’s judgment is reversed.

Even if our intentions are good, sometimes we don’t get the support of the people aroundus. If you are intending to pursue an estate related lawsuit, whether it involves an estate litigation, trust or probate, feel free to consult an Estate Attorney or an Estate Litigation Lawyer from Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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