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Jewish Family Service, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the Borough of Bergenfield

A-4450-04T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

ZONING; USE VARIANCES—The court sets forth the four part balancing test used to determine if a proposed use qualifies as an inherently beneficial use.

A landowner applied to the municipal zoning board of adjustment for a use variance for the operation of a residential drug-treatment program for teenage boys in a neighborhood zoned for one and two family houses. Although the program would accept all qualified candidates, the program was geared toward satisfying the needs of Orthodox Jewish teenage boys. The zoning board of adjustment denied the variance application and adopted a twenty-page resolution detailing the reasons for the denial. The landowner appealed to the Superior Court. Ruling that the actions of the municipal board were neither arbitrary, capricious nor unreasonable, the lower court affirmed the denial of the variance application. The landowner then appealed to the Appellate Division claiming the proposed facility would be an inherently beneficial use warranting the grant of the variance.

There is a four-part balancing test to determine if a proposed use qualifies as an inherently beneficial use. The four factors are: (a) the public interest at stake; (b) whether there were any detrimental effects arising from the grant of the variance; (c) whether the detrimental effects can be mitigated by imposing reasonable conditions; and (d) considering all of the positive and negative criteria associated with the application of any use variance, if granting the variance in question would cause substantial detriment to the public good.

The Appellate Division found a complete lack of evidence in the record to support the landowner’s claim that there was a need for this facility in this community. The landowner did not provide any statistics regarding the rate of drug use in the municipality’s Orthodox Jewish community as compared to the secular or gentile communities; nor did the landowner provide evidence as to the need for a long-term residential drug treatment facility designed to service the Orthodox community. Without any such evidence, there was no proof that there was a public interest needing the service provided by the proposed use.

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