Bailey v. Board of Adjustment of the Township of Franklin

A-6103-97T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2000) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: April 12, 2000

ZONING; AGRICULTURAL USE—The storage of balled and burlapped trees on a property was found to be a permissible agricultural use even though the trees were harvested elsewhere.

A neighboring property owner contended that a nursery’s practice of temporarily storing balled and burlapped trees on its property before replanting them on customers’ premises violated a local land use ordinance. In particular, it challenged the decision of a Board of Adjustment that validated the storage of balled and burlapped trees on a 37 acre farm in the municipality. The trees in question were grown in Pennsylvania and then stored temporarily on the farm. They were alive while being stored. The municipality’s ordinance was designed to provide sufficient space and appropriate location for a variety of agricultural uses. In particular, it permitted “[A]ny form of agriculture or horticulture, including the storage or sale of farm products where produced…,” and the Board of Adjustment read the municipality’s ordinance as manifesting an intent to accord broad protection to farming and to all agricultural and horticultural activities. In particular, the Board determined that “modern farming techniques for the production of horticultural products include growing them in one place, storing them in another, and then replanting them.” Based on that comment, the Board concluded that the nursery’s “temporary storage of live balled and burlapped trees is part of the production of the trees and that they are being stored ‘where produced,’ i.e., during a stage of their production, as permitted by the ordinance.” The lower court concluded that the Board’s interpretation was consistent with the municipal ordinance and both the lower court and the Appellate Division gave substantial deference to the Board’s interpretation of local ordinances “where that decision is informed by knowledge of local circumstances and is combined with enforcement responsibility.” The complaining neighbor’s attempt to invalidate the Board’s ruling was denied.