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Mostafa v. Board of Adjustment of the Borough of Rumson

A-1003-08T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2009) (Unpublished)

ZONING; CONDITIONAL USES — Where proposed outdoor classrooms come within the core function of a school and are a beneficial use, such classrooms are permitted in residential zones that allow schools as conditional uses.

A school applied for site plan approval and necessary variances to construct a pavilion on land it owned across the street from its main campus. Following extensive hearings, the municipal zoning board approved the application and granted the variances. Its resolution included a list of limiting conditions.

Abutting property owners challenged the board’s ruling. After a hearing, the lower court dismissed the complaint, holding that the board’s action was supported by credible evidence and was not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable. The complainants appealed.

The Appellate Division rejected the abutting property owner’s contention that the application was for a use variance. Instead, it found that the school had been seeking relief for a conditional use in a residential zone which allowed schools as conditional uses. The Court found no question that the proposed outdoor classroom came within the scope of the school’s educational use. According to the Court, the pavilion was part of the “core function” of a school and was a beneficial use. Thus, it held that certain tests pertaining to use variance applications were inapplicable here. Further, the Court held that the pavilion still respected the adjoining residences and was not unduly intrusive, and the terms of the variance were substantially limited by the numerous permanent conditions imposed by the zoning board. Further, it held that the use was an inherently beneficial educational use that could be granted without substantial detriment to the public good, and would not impair the intent and purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance. Accordingly, the Court believed that the statutory requirements for the granting of a conditional-use variance were met. It also rejected the objectors’ contention that the pavilion was an accessory structure because, according to the Court, the pavilion constituted a principal structure in its own right.

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