Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 14, 2018

NY Appellate Court Affirms Split-District Zoning Approval and Area Variances for Pet Boarding Facility

This post was authored by Amy Lavine, Esq.

Some zoning ordinances include “split-district” regulations for properties that extend over more than one zoning district. This sort of zoning provision was addressed in a recent New York case involving Pet Lodges, Inc., which wanted to build a pet boarding facility on several contiguous lots that it owned in the City of Saratoga Springs. The properties were divided by a major thoroughfare and were also split between two zoning districts, with those on one side of the road located in the Tourist Related Business District and those on the other side was zoned Rural Residential.

Pet Lodges faced opposition from some of its neighbors, who claimed that it needed a use variance, but the court dismissed this claim and affirmed the zoning board’s decision to approve the project. As the court explained, properties like Pet Lodges’ that were commonly owned prior to being split into different zoning districts were entitled to the benefit of a grandfathering provision that allowed the zoning regulations on either side of the district boundary to be extended by up to 100 feet. The result in this case was that the proposed pet boarding facility would be located entirely within the Rural Residential District, which included animal kennels as a permitted use. While a portion of the facility’s parking lot and driveway would be located in the Tourist Related Business District, where animal kennels were not permitted, the court nevertheless found that these were reasonably considered to be permitted accessory uses. As a result, there was no need for any use variance.

The court also affirmed the grant of area variances for Pet Lodges’ proposed pet boarding project, finding that the zoning board properly balanced the statutory critera. First, the zoning board determined that the project would be consistent with the already commercial character of the neighborhood and it reasonably determined that the existing building footprint was too small to be feasibly developed for commercial use. The zoning board also found that there was no self-created hardship, due to the fact that the substandard width of the property predated the current zoning ordinances, and although the variances were substantial, the pet boarding facility would fully comply with the setbacks for the only occupied adjacent parcel. Lastly, the court agreed with the zoning board that the project met the environmental conditions criteria because it met the city’s requirements for potable water and sanitary sewers and because neighbors of Pet Lodges’ other facilities submitted letters stating that it was unlikely to result in problems related to noise, odors, or loose animals.

Matter of Wen Mei Lu v City of Saratoga Springs, 162 A.D.3d 1291 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dept. 6/14/18)

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