Harras Bloom & Archer LLP Blog

Monday, December 2, 2013

Beware of the Zoning Adjudicatory Board: prepare to fight back if summoned to appear before one

By John Harras

In the never-ending quest to gain more control over the enforcement of local laws and regulations, towns, villages and other municipalities often succumb to the temptation of creating their own adjudicatory board to hear and assess fines for zoning code and other violations. Why litigate misdemeanors and violations before an independent judiciary governed by strict rules of evidence and the troublesome reasonable doubt standard when, upon the creation of an adjudicatory bureau, a municipally- employed hearing officer can hear violations and impose massive “civil” fines supported by evidence barely meeting the preponderance of evidence standard? The short answer is that the local adjudicatory board, with its allure of municipal control and efficiency, is generally unlawful under New York law, and almost always deprives property owners of due process protections.

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