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Nuckel v. Borough of Little Ferry Planning Board

A-5874-05T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2007) (Unpublished)

ZONING; CONFLICTS OF INTEREST —New Jersey’s Local Government Ethics Law addresses conflicts of interest involving members of decision-making land use boards and not those of professionals who appear before those boards.

An applicant seeking to build a hotel received subdivision approvals from the municipality’s planning board. The application had sought to consolidate several lots along a state highway and to gain permission to subdivide the consolidated parcels into two lots. One of those lots would be for the hotel. The other subdivided lot would contain a driveway providing access to the hotel from the state highway. An objector in the proceedings before the board filed suit challenging the board’s approvals, notably that the applicant should have requested certain other variances and should have met other requirements within his application before the board. It also alleged that there was a conflict of interest on the part of two professionals hired by the board.

The lower court found, as affirmed by the Appellate Division, that the issues raised by the objector in the litigation should have been raised first before the board, thereby precluding the objector’s right to relief under waiver and estoppel principles. Additionally, the court found that the statutory standards bearing upon the conflict of interest questions raised by the objector, as contained in New Jersey’s Local Government Ethics Law, addressed conflicts of interest involving members of decision-making boards and not the professionals who appear before those boards.

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