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A board of zoning adjustment (BZA) decision will be upheld if there is a rational basis for it and if the facts found by the Board have substantial support in the evidence. The court is not to substitute its judgment for that of the agency, and thus a decision by the BZA will be upheld provided there is a rational basis for it.
Petitioner protestors opposed the issuance of a special exception for a youth rehabilitation home (home) on the ground that the home would have an adverse effect on the neighborhood. Respondent District of Columbia Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) approved the exception with several special conditions. The protestors sought review of the BZA's order on the grounds that its findings regarding parking and impact upon the surrounding area were not supported by evidence, that they were not given an opportunity to review the security plan for the home, and that the BZA was not impartial in rendering its decision because the District of Columbia was subject to a consent decree that required the development of juvenile rehabilitation facilities. The BZA conceded that the objectors should have had an opportunity to review and comment upon the security plan but claimed the protestors' remaining claims were without merit.
Should the BZA’s order be reversed for not being supported by evidence and for the apparent impartiality of the Board?
The court agreed with the BZA's claims. The court noted that a decision by the board of zoning adjustment (BZA) will not be set aside if: 1) the decision was accompanied by findings of fact sufficient to enable a reviewing court to reach a decision; 2) the decision reached by the agency follows as a matter of law from the facts; and 3) the facts so stated have substantial support in the evidence. In this case, the court found that the record supported the BZA's factual findings and that there was no evidence in the record that the facility would adversely impact the community. The court further found that there was no indication that the BZA acted without the requisite impartiality. The court remanded the case to the BZA so that it could obtain the security plan for the facility, permit the objectors to comment upon it, and then review it in light of such comment and determine whether the exception for the home was properly granted. The court affirmed the BZA's decision in all other respects.