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Rex Lumber Company, Inc. v. The Planning Board of Manalapan Township

A-5878-97T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)

ZONING; INTERPRETATION—A ordinance requiring an applicant to prove that the height of a building element be limited to the height necessary to accomplish the building’s purpose is satisfied upon a showing of “reasonable necessity.”

A woodworking facility on a large site in a light industrial zone sought to erect a fifty-five foot silo to store woodchips which were to be used to fuel a woodburning boiler. The silo was to be built on an internal portion of the property. The planning board, although recognizing that the proposed use was permitted by the zoning ordinances and that the requested waivers were appropriate, concluded that the “[a]pplicant has not proven that the silo height is necessary to accomplish its purpose. The Applicant has not fully explored other alternatives.” Therefore, it denied site plan approval. The applicant appealed to the Law Division and the lower court concluded that the municipal ordinance which provided that such silo structures “shall be erected only to such height as is necessary to accomplish the purpose they are to serve,” necessarily included the requirement that the applicant need only show “reasonably necessity,” and concluded that it was the objector’s burden to show that other feasible designs were available. The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court and held that the requirement of necessity was subject to the standard of “reasonableness.” It was convinced that the woodworking facility met its burden to show reasonable necessity and that the board failed to show reasonable, feasible alternatives to the proposed structure. Consequently, the board’s rejection of the site plan was deemed to be arbitrary.


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