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Nassau Holdings, Inc. v. Planning Board of Borough of Mantaloking

A-0408-07T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

ZONING; SUBDIVISIONS — Subdivision decisions reached by municipal boards are only to be overturned if found to be arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable and denials of variance requests are to receive greater deference than approvals are to receive.

A lot was irregularly shaped and fronted two streets that ran in the same direction but which were not parallel. On each side of the lot were two single-family properties which fronted either of the two streets. The irregular lot’s owner sought to subdivide it into two lots each to be developed as a single family residence. The owner applied for a variance because, once divided, each individual lot would have been short of the required size and required depth for single family residences under the zoning ordinances. The municipal planning board heard testimony from objectors and from experts for both the lot owner and the objectors. Following the hearing, the board voted to deny the owner’s variance application.

The property owner sued, challenging the planning board’s decision. The lower court remanded the matter back to the board for a specific explanation of its denial. After the board issued a revised resolution detailing its reasons for denying the property owner’s application, the lower court affirmed the board’s denial of the variance request. On appeal by the lot owner, the Appellate Division pointed out that decisions reached by municipal boards were only to be overturned if found to be arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable and that denials of variance requests were to receive greater deference than approvals. It substantially agreed with the lower court’s findings that the expert for the objectors did not merely issue a net opinion but that he firmly established that the creation of two nonconforming lots in the place of one conforming lot posed a substantial detriment to the zoning plan. The property owner’s arguments were found to be without merit and the planning board’s decision to deny the variance was affirmed.

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