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Matter of Dexter v. Town Bd. of Town of Gates – Case Brief Summary (New York)

In Matter of Dexter v. Town Bd. of Town of Gates., 36 NY2d 102, 105, 324 NE2d 870, 365 NYS2d 506 (1975), a corporation sought to have the Zoning Board in the Town of Gates rezone certain lands from a residential to a commercial classification so as to permit the development of a retail shopping center.

Although the zoning board granted the reclassification, it imposed several conditions, one of which provided that "the application for the construction of a retail supermarket by the corporation and related commercial structures, shall inure to the benefit of the corporation only, and for that specific purpose only" (Matter of Dexter v. Town Bd., 36 NY2d at 104).

The Court of Appeals invalidated the condition, holding that although a local zoning board may impose "appropriate conditions and safeguards in conjunction with a change of zone or a grant of a variance or special permit," those conditions "must be reasonable and relate only to the real estate involved without regard to the person who owns or occupies it" (Matter of Dexter v. Town Bd., 36 NY2d at 105).

The Court recognized that "all too often the administrative or legislative determination seems to turn on the identity of the applicant or intended user, rather than upon neutral planning and zoning principles." (Matter of Dexter v. Town Bd., 36 NY2d at 105)

The Court of Appeals characterized this approach as error and a "lack of adherence to the fundamental rule that zoning deals basically with land use and not with the person who owns or occupies it" (Matter of Dexter v. Town Bd. 36 NY2d at 105).