On February 23, 2016, the Glen Cove City Council voted to approve a local law allowing the City’s Board of Zoning Appeals to issue its decisions in summary format. Summary decisions would set forth the Board’s decision and any conditions imposed, without enumerating detailed findings which form the basis of the Board’s decision. The law’s objective is to expedite the issuance of decisions, which can take significantly longer to draft in the standard format with lengthy explanations of the Board’s findings and justifications. These longer decisions can delay applicants’ projects by several months. The Glen Cove measure gives the Board the option of issuing a summary decision, but mandates that the Board issue a statement of findings if an “aggrieved party ” makes a written demand for it within 30 days after the summary decision is filed with the City Clerk.
Many zoning boards, particularly those that process large numbers of applications each month, advise applicants of their decisions in summary or letter format. In Matter of Jonas v. Stackler, the Appellate Division, Second Department, tacitly approved the use of zoning board decisions which do not contain factual findings by allowing a board’s decision to be justified by affidavits submitted in a subsequent Article 78 proceeding.
Although Courts will allow a zoning board to articulate the basis for its decision in affidavits submitted in a judicial proceeding, litigation will undoubtedly create far more cost and delay for an applicant, as well as the Board, than would a standard decision. Accordingly, zoning boards should limit the use of summary decisions only to those applications that are either unopposed or otherwise not likely to be challenged.