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Good Time Charley’s South, Inc. v. Township of South Brunswick Planning Board

A-1508-03T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

ZONING; RESOLUTIONS—The lack of a finding in a resolution as to how a land use board reached its approval decision renders the approval resolution facially invalid.

A municipal planning board granted a restaurant’s application for preliminary and final site plan approval to construct an addition to an existing building and to use the entire building as a restaurant. It asked for special provisions as to parking and other requirements. The municipality’s parking space ordinance required that restaurants have one parking space for each thirty square feet of gross floor area, or one space per three seats, whichever was greater. Applying this square footage standard to the restaurant’s application would have required 180 parking spaces. The standard of one space per every three seats governed, the applicant would have been required to provide a total of forty-eight spaces since the restaurant could seat 145 customers.

When the planning board granted the restaurant’s application, it concluded that the site plan would create an enormous benefit to the site and would be beneficial to surrounding properties. Thus, it granted a number of variances and waivers, and the board only required the restaurant to have forty-five spaces.

A neighboring restaurant opposed the application, contesting the parking requirements. The lower court dismissed the complaint. On appeal, the Appellate Division reversed the lower court, holding that the board failed to address why it chose to adopt the “one space per every three seats” standard. The Court held that the omission was ipso facto unreasonable because the resolution did not set forth a reasoned basis why the board should depart from the parking requirements specified in the ordinance.

The Court acknowledged that the restaurant was in an old building in was one of the state’s most historic districts, and that the restaurant’s proposed use might have seemed to the planning board to be an especially favorable prospect for the community, and there might not have been available numerous other appropriate uses. However, the relative wisdom or convenience of departing from the one space per thirty square foot requirement was not before the Court because, regardless of how much it may have been discussed in the hearings, it was not even referenced in the resolution. This lack of a finding rendered the resolution facially invalid.

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