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Lincoln North Development Corporation v. Town of Kearny

A-1960-06T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

ZONING; ORDINANCES — A zoning ordinance is valid if it advances the purposes of municipal land use statutes and serves the public good.

A municipality adopted an ordinance that divided an area of the municipality into two zones. The area in question contained industrial and trucking businesses and had no residential housing. The ordinance banned trucking related activities in the southern zone of the area, including the parking and storage of trucks and trailers and the use of trucks and trailers for storage purposes. Those activities were only allowed in the northern zone of the area. The ordinance also placed conditions on the trucking activities allowable in the northern zone including a requirement for landscaped buffer zones. For example, it limited, to two, the stacking of trailers used for outdoor storage. The stated purpose of the ordinance was to achieve a balance between trucking and warehouse uses and to encourage development in the area.

A developer objected to the ordinance and sued the municipality, alleging a number of state and federal claims. The lower court dismissed all of the developer’s claims except for the allegations that the ordinance was arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, and its due process and police power claims. At trial, a professional planner testified on behalf of the developer, as did property owners whose properties were also negatively affected by the ordinance. One of the property owner’s was a business located in the southern zone. Its business consisted entirely of the banned activities. The municipality presented the testimony of a professional planner and a zoning official.

On summary judgment, the lower court found that the ordinance advanced the purposes of municipal land use statutes and that it served the public good by promoting an improved visual environment. It also found that the ordinance was consistent with the municipality’s master plan, implemented valid zoning purposes, and that there was a rational basis for the ordinance because most of the trucking activities in question already existed in the area’s northern zone. The developer appealed on numerous state and federal grounds. The Appellate Division did not address the developer’s claims regarding maximum yard and bulk requirements because those matters were not raised at trial. The Court pointed out that trial courts are entitled to considerable deference in their credibility findings because they had a better perspective to determine the reliability and truthfulness of witnesses. Thus, the lower court’s decision was affirmed.

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