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Community Group Succeeds in Somerset County Land Use Litigation

Firm Successfully Assists Community Group in Opposing Over-Development

Judge Edward M. Coleman, in a decision that will safeguard the communities of Peapack and Gladstone from over-development, ruled in favor of the Boroughs’ Land Use Board, for its rejection of a use variance permit application submitted by the Matheny School and Hospital for an expansion of its facilities. Matheny proposed an expansion of its Medical and Education Center, which, after much consideration, was ultimately rejected by the Land Use Board due to traffic and safety concerns. The court upheld the Land Use Board’s rejection of the proposal, finding that the determination was not “arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable.”

As part of the Land Use Board’s decision, it determined that the Matheny School’s proposed expansion was not a “permitted conditional use” as Matheny argued. The Land Use Board found that the Matheny School’s proposal expanded its facilities beyond the category of “Residential Health Care Facility in Conjunction with a School,” making it a “Special Hospital,” and thereby requiring a use variance. The court afforded the Land Use Board reasonable deference in interpreting the expansion’s classification and went on to examine the Land Use Board’s rejection of the use variance application.

Although the Matheny School’s expansion was found to be inherently beneficial, the traffic and safety issues associated with the area outweighed such benefit. The road on which the expansion was proposed was steep and winding, resulting in speeding cars and lacked sidewalks, causing children to walk in the street. The Land Use Board found that the proposed expansion would serve as a “tipping point,” which would create unsafe conditions in the area. While there is little question as to the potential benefits of the expansion, the Board’s found that Highland Avenue is ultimately not the appropriate place for such an expansion of the facilities. The attorneys at Lieberman & Blecher, who represented local community group S.O.S. in the opposition of the expansion, are pleased with the court’s holding that the Land Use Board’s decision was well considered and should stand.

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