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Juzefyk v. Woodbridge Township Planning Board

A-4423-03T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2005) (Unpublished)

ZONING; APPEALS—A court is not permitted to undertake its own evaluation of the evidence that was before a land use board in order to reach the conclusion, contrary to that of the board, that the application actually benefitted the community because it represented a better zoning alternative or that a particular variance request was not burdensome.

A municipal planning board appealed a lower court’s reversal “of its denial of [a landowners’] application ... for minor subdivision approval and bulk variances,” contending that 1) its action “was a valid exercise of its discretionary authority and was neither arbitrary, capricious nor unreasonable, 2) the landowners failed to show they were statutorily entitled to a variance, and 3) “the Law Division failed to follow accepted standards of review in its reversal of the board’s decision to deny” the application.

Applying the same standard utilized by the lower court, the Appellate Division held that “the board’s decision ... [was] supported by the evidence before the Board and [was] neither arbitrary, capricious nor unreasonable.” The Court additionally found that the lower court departed from the applicable standard of review by undertaking its “own evaluation of the evidence before the Board in order to reach” the conclusion that the application actually benefitted the community because it represented a superior zoning alternative and that “the undersize lot width” was not especially burdensome. The Court concluded that although there were “strong arguments in favor of the application, the power to make the decision is granted to the Board, subject to review in those limited instances where judicial intervention is compelled.”

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