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DL Real Estate Holding Company, LLC v. Point Pleasant Beach Planning Board

2005 WL 3005778 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

ZONING; VARIANCES—A variance request based on the physical shortcomings of a property must be supported by a showing of exceptional difficulties and an undue hardship to the property owner, other than self-created hardship, if the property had to conform to the applicable zoning requirements.

A developer owned vacant land. It wanted to subdivide the land into thirteen lots and build a single family home on each lot. It also wanted to build a private roadway within the subdivision on which nine of the proposed homes would face. The developer applied to the municipality’s planning board for subdivision approval. The board’s engineer found that under the municipality’s development ordinance, each home was required to face a public street and each lot had to comply with the front and back yard requirements. The engineer concluded that in order to comply with the development ordinance, nine of the proposed lots required variances and several of the lots did not meet the front and back yard requirements. However, the engineer also opined that the subdivision would fully comply with the development ordinance if one of the lots was eliminated. The engineer submitted its recommendation to the planning board which ultimately denied the developer’s application. The board concluded that the necessary variances could not be granted without substantial detriment to the public good. It further found that the benefit of the variances would not outweigh the detriment that would result from the variances. Specifically, it found that the proposed private lane would disrupt the character of the surrounding neighborhood and would cause an increase in traffic. Lastly, the board’s view was that the subdivision would comply with zoning requirements if one of the proposed lots was removed. The developer filed an action in lieu of prerogative writs, asserting that the board’s decision was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable. The lower court dismissed the developer’s complaint, finding that the board’s determination was supported by credible evidence. The developer appealed, arguing that the board incorrectly interpreted the local ordinances as requiring it to obtain variances.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling. In reaching its conclusion, it reviewed the provisions of the local development ordinance and found that the board’s interpretation of the ordinance was correct. It found that the ordinance required variances for the proposed private roadway. It further held that the board was correct in its conclusion that the variances could not be granted without substantial detriment to the public good. The type of variance that was required may be granted when one of the following circumstances are present: 1) the property is exceptionally narrow; 2) the property is exceptionally shallow; 3) the property contains exceptional topographic conditions; or 4) an extraordinary and exceptional situation is present which uniquely affects the property. A variance may be granted when one of the above circumstances would result in exceptional difficulties and undue hardship to the property owner if the property had to conform to the applicable zoning requirements. The Court found that the board correctly concluded that a variance would not be warranted because the developer failed to establish that it would suffer undue hardship and that any of the foregoing circumstances were present.


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