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State of New Jersey v. Franklin Plastics Corporation

A-2331-01T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

ZONING; ACCESSORY USE— Use of storage containers on the grounds outside a building is not an accessory use to the principal use of the building and an ordinance barring the storage or parking of such containers is enforceable.

A manufacturing company was found guilty of violating a municipal ordinance that prohibited “[t]he storage, parking or use of trucks, tractor [] trailers, containers or any similar structure for storage purposes on a permanent basis.” The manufacturer essentially argued “that its use of the containers on an active basis did not violate [the ordinance] because the containers were an ‘accessory use’ as they were being ‘used’ as part of its manufacturing process.” It maintained that the zoning law prohibition did not prohibit “accessory use” of the containers, “but only the ‘use’ of the containers as a primary use, arguing that the definition of ‘accessory use’ in the Zoning Ordinance would be ‘surplusage, ... meaningless, and ... not the proper construction,’ if a different construction were given to [the specific prohibited provision in the zoning ordinance].” Both the lower court and the Appellate Division disagreed with the manufacturer. The lower court concluded “that the use was not ‘accessory use’ because the ‘[] cardboard and building materials [were] part and parcel of the [defendant’s] operation’ and because the ‘storage containers [were] being used due to lack of available space within the main manufacturing building.’” The lower court also observed that the manufacturer had “failed to present any evidence that the use of [its] containers ‘serv[ed] a purpose customarily incidental to the principal use of the principal building’ within the meaning of the definition of ‘accessory use.’” The Appellate Division opined that it was clear intendment of this particular section of the zoning ordinance that “the use of containers for storage on a permanent basis [be] prohibited.” Further, such “use [was] not only not a permitted accessory use, ..., it [was] an expressly prohibited one… .”

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