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Garguila v. The Township Committee of the Township of Franklin

A-2574-01T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

ZONING; BOUNDARIES—Zoning boundaries must be drawn somewhere; just because property on each side of a line is similar does not make the boundary line unreasonable.

A developer contracted to purchase ninety-nine acres of farmland, at the time zoned for three-acre lots. Before the developer submitted its subdivision application, the municipality rezoned the property, putting part of it in a zone requiring five acres per house and the rest in a zone requiring seven acres per house. The ordinance was adopted in accordance with the municipality’s Master Plan “and the increased lot sizes were intended to deal with ‘the varying capacity of the acquifer recharge characteristics throughout the township.” The municipality established three separate zones based on their hydrogeological formations. The developer’s geologist submitted a report concluding that there was a possibility that the more restricted portion of the lot did not actually lie within the more restrictive underlying acquifer system. The developer’s planning expert opined that the placement of part of the property in the seven-acre zone “was arbitrary because it resulted in different treatment of physically similar land.”

“In boundary drawing disputes, the decision of where to establish the physical lines between zones is a matter of legislative judgment, which cannot be upset unless arbitrariness or capriciousness can be shown.” Boundary lines necessarily must be drawn somewhere. Just because property on each side of a line is similar does not make the position of the line unreasonable. With that in mind, the Appellate Division held that the developer’s planning expert’s opinion was insufficient to demonstrate arbitrariness. Further, the geological expert only opined that there was a “possibility” that the lots were located in a different acquifer. “Proof of a mere possibility ... falls well short of proof that the ordinance was arbitrary as applied.” Although case law allowed an applicant to show that its property was not actually burdened by the specific environmental constraints that caused a municipality to zone in a particular way, this developer failed to meet the burden of proof to show that the environmental constraint in question did not apply to the more restrictively zoned portion of the property.


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