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Mocco v. Borough of Sayerville

A-4495-01T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

ZONING; ORDINANCES—Adoption of a zoning ordinance that affects a particular property is not arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious just because it serves to limit development possibilities, and hence profitability.

A developer challenged rezoning of her property. She claimed the new zoning ordinances were unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious because they failed to consider the character of the surrounding area, overlooked the hardship in developing her property, failed to serve a public purpose, attempted to control population growth in an unreasonable manner, and zoned her property differently from comparable properties without sufficient reasons. After a five day trial, the lower court found in municipality’s favor and the developer appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed. A municipal zoning ordinance is presumed to be valid and is only struck down if it is “arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, or plainly contrary to fundamental principles of zoning.” If the zoning ordinance advances one of the purposes of the Municipal Land Use Law and is consistent with the master plan it will be upheld. A court is not permitted to question the wisdom of a particular ordinance and substitute its judgment. If there are conceivable circumstances under which the zoning ordinance would advance the general welfare, the ordinance will be upheld. As long as there is adequate, substantial, and credible evidence supporting the ordinance, it will be upheld even if there are credible expert’s reports opposing the ordinance. Here, the Court found that the developer’s arguments centered around the reduced profitability of her property under the new zoning ordinance as opposed to the prior ordinance. The Court noted that the developer’s main complaint was that the new zoning ordinance limited her development possibilities and therefore reduced the profitability of the property. Her profit motive was insufficient to challenge the ordinance.


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