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UMH of Vineland, Inc. v. City of Vineland Zoning Board of Adjustment

A-1194-09T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2010) (Unpublished)

ZONING; AFFORDABLE HOUSING; MOBILE HOMES — Although the New Jersey legislature, through its statutes, suggests that local governments consider mobile home parks when evaluating how they will meet their fair share affordable housing requirements, not all manufactured housing is affordable housing and therefore not all mobile home parks constitute an inherently beneficial use.

The operator of an existing mobile home park sought a use and density variance for an adjoining parcel zoned only for agricultural uses and very low density residential uses. It planned to build a 50 unit expansion. The municipal zoning board denied the use variance. The applicant sued, but the lower court upheld the zoning board’s decision.

The applicant appealed the zoning board’s decision and the lower court’s ratification of that decision, arguing that “the expansion of its mobile home park [was] an inherently beneficial use because it [would] provide affordable housing.” Along those lines, it argued that “failure to recognize the additional units as an inherently beneficial use contributed to an improper balance of the positive and negative criteria” by the zoning board. The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court and the zoning board. According to the Court, the lower court properly held that the applicant “was required to establish special reasons for the park in the existing zoning and [to show that] the variance relief [could] be granted without substantial detriment or impairment to the zone plan.” It endorsed the lower court’s opinion that “distinguished between inexpensive housing and affordable housing.” Specifically, the lower court recognized that the “promotion of the use of manufactured homes for affordable housing is appropriate,” but also pointed out that “[n]othing in this language suggests that all manufactured housing is affordable housing.” With favor, the Court repeated the words of the lower court when the lower court said: “[c]learly the legislature is suggesting that local governments consider mobile home parks when evaluating how it will meet – how the municipality will meet its fair share of affordable housing. This is a far cry from declaring that all manufactured homes are affordable housing, as that term is used in the case of deciding what uses are inherently beneficial.”

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