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Center Square Real Estate Development Co., Inc. v. Logan Township Zoning Board of Adjustment

A-4668-06T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

ZONING; USE VARIANCE—A land use board is not required to grant a variance if the board ultimately concludes that there would still be a detrimental effect on the community even if the applicant agreed to certain ameliorating conditions.

A developer sought to build a hardware store for a nationwide chain. Its property was at the intersection of a major highway, a county road, and three local roads. The property was zoned for a number of commercial uses, but specifically not for retail strip malls and shopping centers. So, the developer applied for a use variance. At the zoning board hearing, the developer presented two expert witnesses who testified that the developer’s property was particularly suited for the hardware store because of its proximity to the major highway. One of the experts also testified that there would have been no negative impact on the surrounding community and that any increases in traffic would not be substantial or could have been mitigated. The board denied the developer’s variance request. A majority of members did were not convinced that the developer’s plan would not have had a negative impact on local traffic conditions. On an action brought by the developer challenging the board’s decision, the lower court upheld the board’s denial of the variance.

On appeal, the Appellate Division noted that the board was not required to grant the variance if the board ultimately concluded that there still would have been a detrimental impact on the community even if the developer agreed to certain conditions regarding delivery trucks. It agreed with the lower court that the board was not required to accept or to rebut the experts’ testimony in order to have denied the variance and that the board reached its decision based on its particular understanding of the local conditions. The Court rejected the developer’s argument that board’s findings of fact were not included in the board’s final decision. It found that the board’s conclusion, that the developer’s experts did not meet the burden of proof of showing that the plan would not have had detrimental consequences to the community, was adequately stated in its denial of the variance. As a result, the decision by the board to deny the developer’s variance request was affirmed by both the lower court and the Appellate Division.

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