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State of New Jersey v. Quality Management Associates of New Jersey, Inc.

A-6286-08T4 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2010) (Unpublished)

ZONING; PRINCIPAL USE — There is nothing about the principal use of a business office that logically implies an accessory use for treating special needs adults to function at higher levels because the general purpose of a business office is to conduct the entity’s administrative functions, and not to provide training services.

A company owned property located was in a municipality’s office commercial zoning (OC) district. The district was established to create an area for development of office properties. Pursuant to the ordinance, professional and business offices were permitted principal uses in the OC district. A business office was defined as excluding retail uses, professional uses, personal service uses, and banks. The property owner’s business provided residential, housing, and non-traditional support to adults with developmental disabilities. Prior to purchasing the property, the president of the company advised the municipal zoning officer that a few clients with developmental disabilities would be employed at the established corporate office for the company to perform certain jobs such as paper shredding and cleaning.

In actuality, the company was using the first floor of its building to train its clients, referred to by the president as non-traditional day support. In addition to paper shredding, the clients developed skills such as computer and language use. After a visit from the zoning officer, the company acknowledged that it was conducting a training program in the building where clients learned to be employable individuals through life skills training, education, and vocational skills. Consequently, the zoning officer filed a complaint for violation of the ordinance alleging conduct of a non-permitted use in the zoning district. The matter was heard in municipal court over two days. The municipal court concluded that the adult training being conducted in the building was not a permitted principal or accessory use within the meeting of the governing ordinance, was not disclosed to the board, and was inconsistent with the president’s representations. The lower court affirmed the municipal court’s decision, finding that the non-traditional day support program was not one that fell within the plain meaning of business office under the ordinance.

The company appealed, but the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court found that under the ordinance in question, a training program would be barred in the OC zone based on the common understanding of a business office as a place where traditional office functions, such as accounting, billing, scheduling, and management activities, are conducted as opposed to the actual underlying business of the entity. The Court found the ordinance to be unambiguous as to activities prohibited under the definition of a business office, specifically offices maintained for the conduct of a business, as opposed to its administration, and that professional uses were prohibited in a business office. The ordinance was deemed sufficiently definite to give reasonable notice of prohibited conduct to others.

The Court also concluded that the training program could not be considered incidental to the principal use of a business office or customary in the OC zone. It ruled that there was nothing about the principal use of a business office that logically implied an accessory use of training “special needs” adults to function at higher levels because the general purpose of a business office is to conduct the entity’s administrative functions, and this purpose was not related to the training services at issue.


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