Otto v. Steinhilber – Case Brief
Otto v. Steinhilber, 282 N.Y. 71, 24 N.E.2d 851 (N.Y. 1939).
Facts: An application was made for a variance so that a large roller skating rink could be build on certain land that was zoned for both commercial and residential use. The residents living adjacent to the proposed rink objected to the variance.
The Zoning Board of Appeals granted the variance on the grounds of unnecessary hardship. The land lay within both a residential and commercial zone. The only means of access to the residential portion was over the commercial zone and that the intervenor could erect a rink wholly within the commercial zone. Cars would be parked on the property at the sides of the rink thus alleviating residential congestion. The Board’s decision to grant the variance was appealed.
Issue: What must a party show in order to obtain a grant of a variance?
Holding and Rule: In order to obtain a valid variance, a party must show that the land cannot yield a reasonable return if used only for its present zoning, that the plight of the owner is due to unique circumstances and not the general conditions of the neighborhood which may reflect the unreasonableness of the zoning ordinance itself, and that the use authorized by the variance will not alter the essential character of the locality.
The intervenor was able to demonstrate that if the variance were granted, he would be able to make an immediate profitable use of the entire tract; however, there was nothing to show that the intervenor’s plight was due to unique circumstances and not the general conditions of the neighborhood.