Menlo Park Plaza Associates v. Planning Board of The Township of Woodbridge

316 N.J. Super. 451, 720 A.2d 626 (App. Div. 1998)
  • Opinion Date: December 4, 1998

ZONING—A neighboring municipality has the discretion not to approve use of a lot for access to a project in an adjacent community, even if the access is required by the adjacent community’s planning or zoning board.

A developer obtained approvals for an 82 single family development conditioned upon the developer obtaining approval for a secondary access road from an adjacent municipality. The adjacent municipality then commenced an action against both the developer and the neighboring planning board seeking to overturn the approval. In response, the developer filed a similar complaint seeking a judicial grant of the approvals it needed. The lower court directed the developer to apply to the appropriate board of the neighboring municipality for such approvals as might be required for its proposed roadway connection. Following hearings, the developer’s application was formally denied. The board found that it had never envisioned that the subject lot be used as right-of-way to transform a dead end street into a significant thoroughfare. There was concern about potential adverse effects of the transformation on municipal services, the character of the neighborhood, and the values of the neighboring properties. One of the developer’s contentions was that the municipality was obligated to accept its application since its proposed use of the lot did not fall within the Municipal Land Use Law’s definition of a subdivision and since the proposed road met all other design standards. The Court disagreed, finding that the roadway would in fact divide the land into several parcels, i.e., the roadway and slivers of land on each side of it. Consequently, the Court found that this constituted a subdivision that triggered the necessity for approvals. The developer also argued that it was enduring a hardship because there was no other accessway to its property by reason of the conditions set by the first municipality in granting the major development approvals and the extensive wetlands that barred any other outlet road. The Court was unsympathetic, finding that the developer’s perceived hardship was self-created. The developer was unable to show that its proposals to turn a quiet dead-end residential street into a busy thoroughfare could be accomplished without substantial detriment to the public good or general welfare. In the Court’s view, the developer’s desire for the outlet road from its proposed development was to serve its selfish economic interest and had nothing to do with abstract principles of good zoning. Consequently, the Court upheld the denial of the approvals by the adjacent municipality.