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Exercise of the legislative power to zone should be governed by rules and standards as clearly defined as possible, so that it cannot operate in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion, and will actually be directed to the health, safety, welfare and morals of the community. The more clarity and specificity required in the articulation of the premises upon which a particular zoning regulation is based, the more effectively will courts be able to review the regulation, declaring it ultra vires if it is not in reality in accordance with a comprehensive plan. Thus, Lake Success, N.Y., Building Zone Ordinance No. 60 constitutes unjustifiable discrimination and is unconstitutional.
The Village of Lake Success was a small, suburban community. It has a rather irregular shape, but generally was bounded on the south by the Northern State Parkway and on the north and east by the Town of North Hempstead. To the west lies its giant neighbor, the City of New York. The village was approximately two square miles in size, running through it in a generally north-south direction was the main artery of the village, Lakeville Road. That street intersects with Northern Boulevard, a major east-west thoroughfare. The village's northern boundary appeared to be completely arbitrary. For the most part, it is to the south of Northern Boulevard. However, along Lakeville Road, the village reached out in a northerly direction to touch Northern Boulevard. The area was not large and was neck-like in shape. Prior to the 1960 rezoning, almost the entire neck was zoned for business. The area was zoned Business A which permitted retailing and similar uses as well as laboratories and office and public buildings. The rest of the neck was zoned Business B where essentially the only nonresidential use allowed was neighborhood retailing. A parcel of land in question consisted of approximately two and one-half acres, covering all of the area formerly zoned Business A on the east side of Lakeville Road. When appellant Daniel A. Udell assembled this east parcel in 1951, the only use being made of this property was in the northerly portion facing Northern Boulevard. It was then being operated as a restaurant. Also in 1951, appellant acquired two and one-half acres of vacant lots on the west side of Lakeville Road. The zoning amendment, ordinance No. 60, placed the entire neck, except for a 100-foot-wide strip adjacent to Northern Boulevard, in a Residence "C" category. Permitted uses in the new classification include public and religious buildings and residences with minimum lot size set at 13,000 square feet and minimum frontage of 100 feet on Lakeville Road. The lower courts had found that the rezoning was not valid with respect to the parcel to the west of a road dividing the parcel, but was valid with respect to the parcel to the east of the dividing road. Appellant sought review of the order.
Was the 1960 amendment to the Building Zone Ordinance of the Village valid?
The judgment of the lower courts was reversed, and the ordinance was declared ultra vires, unconstitutional, and void as to the appellant’s property. The court held that the rezoning ordinance was invalid with respect to both parts of the parcel. The court found that the rezoning was not done in accordance with the comprehensive plan of the municipality, noting that the change was not the result of a deliberate change in community policy also, it was enacted without sufficient forethought or planning. The court further noted that the parcel had been zoned for business for the previous 20 years, and that as a result of the zoning change, appellant would lose 60 percent of its value. The court also concluded that the zoning change was discriminatory, since there was no showing of purpose in distinguishing the two parcels, and in fact there was conflicting testimony as to the suitability of each of the parcels for particular uses.