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Novelli v. Zoning Board of Adjustment for Township of Gloucester

A-2971-02T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

ZONING; PRE-EXISTING USE—Even though the original business and its successor may both be retail repair businesses, it is an impermissible expansion of a pre-existing use if the new business is designed to attract customers to the property and the old business did not.

A property had been used to house an underwater construction company, which was a pre-existing nonconforming use. An applicant sought to use that property to operate an automobile repair shop. The zoning board denied the applicant “both a certificate of nonconformity for a pre-existing nonconforming use and a use variance.” The lower court and the Appellate Division agreed. The lower court believed that “the nature of the [proposed] use would be completely changed from a headquarters site to a regular retail business. Though the underwater salvage company utilized the property to make repairs and do maintenance, this was accomplished on the vehicles owned by the company and/or the employees.” It was not a retail operation. Accordingly, “[a]n automobile repair facility [would be] completely and totally different.” The Appellate Division added that “[w]hile the former use entailed the storage of equipment on site, the proposed use would encourage members of the public to visit the premises. [Consequently the] nature of the use would be substantially changed.”

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