Sasso v. Osgood

86 N.Y.2d 374, 657 N.E.2d 254, 633 N.Y.S.2d 259 (1995)

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Sasso v. Osgood

New York Court of Appeals
86 N.Y.2d 374, 657 N.E.2d 254, 633 N.Y.S.2d 259 (1995)

Facts

In 1989, Gerald Speach (defendant) bought a waterfront parcel of land in an area lined with commercial and private boathouses. Speach’s parcel, which was located in a lakefront zoning district and was a special-permit use, contained a single-slip boathouse and was substandard in size. Speach wanted to demolish the existing boathouse and build a larger one, so in 1990, he applied to the town zoning board for area variances. Sasso and Edney (plaintiffs), adjoining landowners, objected to Speach’s petition, arguing that the proposed boathouse would negatively affect their properties. At the time Speach filed his petition, the applicable zoning statute required variance applicants to show that strict compliance with local zoning ordinances would cause practical difficulties or unnecessary hardship. Speach’s petition was unsuccessful because he could not demonstrate that complying with local zoning ordinances would cause him practical difficulties. In 1992, the old zoning statute was repealed, and a new statute was enacted. The new law did not expressly require an applicant for an area variance to demonstrate practical difficulties. Instead, it established a five-factor balancing test for area-variance applicants. The purpose of the new law was to establish easy-to-follow guidelines and minimize confusion surrounding variance applications. In 1993, Sasso again applied for an area variance, arguing that he was no longer required to demonstrate practical difficulties. Applying the new five-factor balancing test, the zoning board approved Speach’s application, and the New York Supreme Court affirmed the approval. The New York Supreme Court Appellate Division again reversed, holding that Speach was still required to demonstrate that strict compliance with local zoning ordinances would cause practical difficulties. Speach appealed, arguing that the new statute did not require him to demonstrate practical difficulties.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Simons, J.)

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