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Lewis v. Rider University

A-3862-10T4 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2011) (Unpublished)

ZONING; SITE PLANS — Where a site plan conforms with zoning and site plan ordinances, the applicant is not required to show that it has a need for the changes, such as a need for proposed additional parking.

A university applied for site approval for a proposed, expanded parking area on its campus. The additional parking spaces still left it with less than the required number. The proposed parking area did conform with the zoning ordinance’s applicable bulk requirements. While the site plan approval application was pending before the municipality’s planning board, the university revised its plan to relocate the spaces further away from the homes of those residents who had challenged the application. The revised plan was intended to reduce the impact on the neighboring properties by such changes as enhanced landscaping. The board approved the application, concluding that the university had satisfied the local ordinance’s site plan review requirements.

The neighboring property owners challenged the approval, but the lower court rejected their challenge. They then appealed the dismissal, but the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision. It held that even if the university intended to use the expanded parking lot in connection with a rumored, but undisclosed, plan to construct a new campus performing arts center, this “intention” would not be relevant to its entitlement to site plan approval. Furthermore, the proposed site plan conformed with the zoning and site plan ordinances. The university was not required to show that it had a need for additional parking to obtain approval so long as its plan conformed to the relevant ordinances.

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