Search Site
Menu
NJ Appeals Court Reverses Lane Use Variances in Closter Case

NJ Appeals Court Reverses Lane Use Variances in Closter Case

Applicants before zoning boards and planning boards must prove that their application is consistent with local zoning.  In other words, as a general matter, only residential applications can be approved within zones that are limited to residential use.  Likewise, commercial applications are only acceptable in zones that have been designed for that type of use. When an applicant has a proposed use that is inconsistent with local zoning, the applicant is required to apply for what is called a use variance.  According to New Jersey land use case law, use variances should not be liberally granted because they are inconsistent with the overall philosophy of sound land use planning in New Jersey.  In order to obtain a use variance, an applicant is required to demonstrate that certain criteria established by both statute and case law have been satisfied.

Usually, but not always, the decision of a land use Board will be given tremendous deference by a reviewing court. Courts recognize that local planning boards and zoning boards are the most familiar with local property conditions and the members of these boards are in the best position to determine whether exceptions to the zoning scheme should be granted. Thus, New Jersey land use case law provides that the decisions from zoning boards and planning boards will generally be upheld unless they are found to be arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable.

For this reason, the recent New Jersey Appellate Division decision in Rosenblum v. Closter Zoning Board of Adjustment, No. A–4936–10T3, warrants special consideration.  What makes this an interesting case is that the trial court upheld a zoning board decision granting several use variances to store commercial equipment within a residential zone. While the trial court affirmed the Zoning Board’s decision, the Appellate Court reversed, finding that the statutory requirements necessary to grant use variances were in fact not present in the record before the Court.

Rosenblum appeared pro se in the case. The applicant was a gentleman named Crimmins, who had secured use variances which allowed him to store commercial vehicles and materials for his landscaping and construction business on an undersized lot in a residential zone.   On August 18, 2010 the local Zoning Board adopted a resolution granting the variances for the continuation of a nonconforming contractor’s yard.  The Board found that the property was particularly appropriate for both the residential uses and storage uses due to the depth of the site which permitted the residential structure to remain segregated from the contractor storage portion of the property. The Board also found that there would not be a substantial detriment to the public good or substantial impairment to the purposes of zoning by granting the variances.

On appeal from the Zoning Board, the trial court issued a decision on June 8, 2011 upholding the Board’s resolution, finding that the benefits of the application outweighed the detriments and that the intent and purpose of the master plan was satisfied.

Upon further appeal, the Appellate Division reversed.  While the Zoning Board had determined that the property was particularly suited for the proposed use because it was located in an area within which multiple properties had similar characteristics, the Appellate Division refuted this finding noting that there was no determination that the property is a more suitable location for storing the equipment then a commercial lot on another street than the applicant also owned.

The Appellate Division also determined that there was no evidence to support a finding that the proposed use would benefit the general welfare or that the property was particularly suited for the proposed use.   In that regard, the appellate panel noted that the particular suitability standard is one that fills a general need in the community where there is no other viable location and the property itself is particularly suited in terms of location, topography or shape. None of those findings were made with regard to this particular property.

The Court also rejected the Board’s determination that the negative criteria were established because the proposed use conflicted with the municipality’s master plan, and in particular a recent examination of the master plan which had urged that the zoning rules be tightly enforced in this community due to a history of prior non-compliance.

In conclusion, the Appellate Division determined that the Board’s decision could not be sustained because the applicant did not satisfy the affirmative or negative requirements set forth at N.J.S.A. 40:55D–70d. For that reason, the lower courts determination to uphold the Board’s decision was reversed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Attorneys

Recent Twitter Posts

  • New report finds that significant offshore wind capacity exists along the Atlantic coast. https://t.co/EQG8d5VMw2
    2 months ago
  • The Murphy Administration plans to spend $200 million on wind port. https://t.co/Se09U5ZHvy
    2 months ago
  • NJDEP aims to simplify permitting process. https://t.co/UTm92DtrAC
    2 months ago
  • U.S. Supreme Court will hear PennEast Pipeline appeal of New Jersey eminent domain dispute. https://t.co/AqqvTw1QD2
    3 months ago

Recent Blog Posts

New Jersey pushes back against pipeline company in US Supreme Court

The State of New Jersey is currently battling PennEast Pipeline Co. in the Supreme Court in attempt to block the construction of a new pipeline. PennEast obtained the necessary Federal Energy
Read More
New Jersey pushes back against pipeline company in US Supreme Court

Stormwater drainage in New Jersey causes increasing issues between neighbors across the state

New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the country. As development continues across the state, flooding disputes between residential neighbors are becoming increasingly common. Generally, a residential property owner
Read More
Stormwater drainage in New Jersey causes increasing issues between neighbors across the state

The “Green” School Bus: The EPA aids the State of New Jersey in transitioning School Buses throughout the State from Diesel to Electric

The development of environmentally-friendly vehicles has been the focus of states and vehicle manufacturers for the greater part of a decade, however not much focus has been placed on updating
Read More
The “Green” School Bus: The EPA aids the State of New Jersey in transitioning School Buses throughout the State from Diesel to Electric

Most recent paraquat lawsuit filed by New Jersey resident against Syngenta, Chevron

For several years, Syngenta, the manufacturer of paraquat, an herbicide, has faced legal consequences due personal injury caused by this chemical, specifically Parkinson’s disease. Most recently, on March 25, 2021,
Read More
Most recent paraquat lawsuit filed by New Jersey resident against Syngenta, Chevron

In the media

  • Gulf Coast Town Center facing foreclosure

    Naples Daily News, September 16, 2015

    Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against an affiliate of CBL & Associates, the owners of the decadeold, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in south Fort Myers for a $190.9 million unpaid loan. The center has 94 stores on 204 acres, with such anchors as Super Target, Belk, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls and Costco...

    Read More
  • Town liable for private company's leaking underground tanks, court rules

    NJ.com Jul 26, 2017

    CRANFORD -- A couple that owned a businesses in town and became sick from leaking underground tanks owned by an adjacent business can sue the township for damages because the tanks were partially ...

    Read More
  • Dark Waters: How a Class Action Catapulted NJ to Forefront of 'Forever Chemicals' Battle

    NJ Law Journal Jan 09, 2020

    As property owners become increasingly aware of PFAS contamination, and as individuals exposed to PFAS learn of the health risks associated with exposure, liability will likely affect entire supply chains.

    Read More
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Contact Our Firm

Quick Contact Form