Tagged: Municipal Land Use Law

New Jersey Issues Guidance to Assist Land Use Boards in Holding Electronic Meetings and Hearings

New Jersey Issues Guidance to Assist Land Use Boards in Holding Electronic Meetings and Hearings

In the wake of Executive Order 103 declaring the COVID-19 public health emergency and Executive Order 107 concerning restrictions on public gatherings, most planning boards and zoning boards of adjustment in New Jersey cancelled their scheduled meetings and have since been evaluating how to resume meeting in a manner that complies with social distancing requirements and Executive Order 107. This has left applicants uncertain when and in what manner their applications for development will be considered and decided. Following enactment of emergency legislation to facilitate the conduct of electronic meetings, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Division of Local Government Services, has issued guidance to specifically assist planning boards and zoning boards of adjustment with conducting public hearings electronically on applications for development. The guidance, titled “Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustments Operational Guidance – COVID-19: N.J.S.A. 40:55D-1, Recommendations for Land Use Public Meetings in New Jersey,” is a first step in assisting land use boards – some of which have been hesitant to begin holding “virtual” meetings – with the mechanics of arranging for and conducting electronic meetings and public hearings. The Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL) requires land use boards to hold meetings at least monthly. Such...

Appellate Division Underscores Need for Findings, and Potentially More Testimony, to Approve Reduction of Variance

Appellate Division Underscores Need for Findings, and Potentially More Testimony, to Approve Reduction of Variance

It’s a common scenario: after a series of public hearings, the scope of variance relief sought is reduced by the applicant or at the direction of the board, and the board then approves the application. A recent unreported opinion from New Jersey’s Appellate Division underscores that the resolution of approval must explain how and why the reduced scope of relief satisfies the variance criteria when the original proposal did not. This may require presentation of additional testimony by the applicant in support of the modifications. In 440 Company-Carriage House, LP v. Zoning Bd. of Adjustment for the Borough of Palisades Park, the Zoning Board of Adjustment for the Borough of Palisades Park (“Board”) granted three use variances (along with final site plan approval and certain bulk variance relief) to enable the construction of a 14-story, 121-unit, residential building. The relief granted by the Board represented a substantial reduction from what the applicant-developer had actually sought and presented testimony in support of over the course of a public hearing which extended for nine meetings. The developer had originally applied for use variances to permit a 17-story building, with 154 units. Rather than approving the project as presented, or denying it, the...

An Application for Development Must Include All Checklist Items for Protection of “Time of Application” Rule to Apply, New Jersey Supreme Court Says

An Application for Development Must Include All Checklist Items for Protection of “Time of Application” Rule to Apply, New Jersey Supreme Court Says

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled today, in a unanimous opinion in a case of first impression captioned Dunbar Homes, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the Township of Franklin, et al., that to receive the protection of the “time of application” rule, an application must comply with the definition of “application for development” in the Municipal Land Use Law (“MLUL”), meaning that it must include all of the items required by the submission checklist which the municipality has adopted by ordinance. This case constitutes the first time the Supreme Court has interpreted the “time of application” rule, and its decision will impact the review of development applications throughout the state. The MLUL’s “time of application” rule provides that the ordinances and regulations in effect “on the date of submission of an application for development” govern review of that application. This reversed the longstanding “time of decision” rule whereby municipalities could change the zoning regulations at any time prior to the approval of an application for development, even where the change was enacted during a public hearing process specifically for the purpose of derailing a pending application. Under the “time of application” rule, the date upon which “an application...

Howard Geneslaw Argues Before NJ Supreme Court in Dunbar Homes on Behalf of NJ State Bar Association

Howard Geneslaw Argues Before NJ Supreme Court in Dunbar Homes on Behalf of NJ State Bar Association

On Monday, April 9, 2018, Howard D. Geneslaw, a Director in the Gibbons Real Property Department, argued before the Supreme Court of New Jersey on behalf of the New Jersey State Bar Association (“NJSBA”) as an amicus curiae in the matter of Dunbar Homes, Inc. v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the Township of Franklin. The NJSBA was one of several amici involved in this case of first impression on the key question of when a submission to a municipal planning board is considered an “application for development” for purposes of being afforded protection under the “time of application” rule. The “time of application” rule provides that the zoning regulations which govern the review of an application for development are those in effect at the time it is submitted. The issue to be decided by the New Jersey Supreme Court centers on what constitutes submission of an application for development which allows the applicant to invoke the protection of the “time of application” rule. The Appellate Division, in a reported decision, ruled that protection is not available until an applicant submits all documents specified in the municipality’s application checklist adopted by ordinance, although the application need not have been deemed...

New Jersey Appellate Division Warns Planning Boards That Avoiding Controversy Risks Automatic Approval

New Jersey Appellate Division Warns Planning Boards That Avoiding Controversy Risks Automatic Approval

When reviewing land use applications, “the rule of law is paramount and cannot be sidestepped to avoid deciding unpopular land use applications.” In issuing this reminder, the New Jersey Appellate Division recently affirmed the automatic approval of a site plan application that modified a planned unit development approval (PUD) dating back to 1997, underscoring the principle that land use applications are to be adjudicated on the merits in a timely fashion. In Shipyard Associates v. Hoboken Planning Board, et al., an unpublished decision, a developer was granted PUD approval in 1997 for a mixed use waterfront project that included residential high-rise apartment buildings, commercial retail space, a parking garage, and tennis courts. The developer constructed the project, except for the tennis facilities, and, in 2011, applied for site plan approval to build two additional residential towers instead of the tennis courts. Although the applicant was deemed complete in October 2011, the matter was not scheduled to be heard at a Planning Board meeting until approximately eight months later. In the interim, the City sued the developer seeking to enforce its perceived rights under the developer’s agreement for the 1997 PUD approval. Due to the filing of that lawsuit, when the Planning...

Mere Fact That Application Would Bring Development Closer Into Compliance With Zoning Code Insufficient to Warrant Grant of Site Plan Approval and Variance, N.J. Appellate Division Affirms

Mere Fact That Application Would Bring Development Closer Into Compliance With Zoning Code Insufficient to Warrant Grant of Site Plan Approval and Variance, N.J. Appellate Division Affirms

The New Jersey Appellate Division recently affirmed denial of an application for site plan approval and variance relief despite an applicant’s contention that the application’s issues identified by the Planning Board were too minor to justify denial of the application that would bring the subject property into conformity with the zoning code. Although unpublished and nonbinding, the decision confirms New Jersey courts’ broad deference to local boards in this state, making clear that if a land use board’s legitimate concerns are not addressed by an application, the mere fact that the application would bring a property into conformity with the local zoning code is insufficient to secure a variance under New Jersey’s Municipal Land Use Law. In World Wheat Foundation, Inc. v. Planning Board of the Township of Saddle River, et al., a church-based, not-for-profit organization, sought site plan approval and variance relief to convert a property that previously served as a residential facility for the elderly into a vocational school to assist Korean families with language and the arts. The previous facility ceased operations more than two years prior to the application. The property was situated in the Township’s Secondary Business Zone, in which the former residential facility was...

N.J. Appellate Division Affirms Default Approval of Substantially Complete Application for Redevelopment Project

N.J. Appellate Division Affirms Default Approval of Substantially Complete Application for Redevelopment Project

The New Jersey Appellate Division recently affirmed a trial court’s grant of an automatic site plan approval for an 87-unit multi-family residential project with possible commercial space on the ground floor in Jersey City. The decision simultaneously sheds light on what it means for an application to be “complete” and when the Municipal Land Use Law’s proverbial 95-day stopwatch for the grant or denial of preliminary approval begins ticking. In Bright and Varick Urban Renewal Co. LLC v. Jersey City Planning Bd., after the City designated the subject property as an area in need of redevelopment and adopted a redevelopment plan, the designated redeveloper filed an application seeking site plan approval for the project. The City’s Principle Planner informed the redeveloper that it needed to submit an additional 12 outstanding items before the application would be considered. The redeveloper submitted 11 of the 12 outstanding items, and stated it would provide the twelfth item upon request. Thereafter, the Principle Planner confirmed in writing that the application was “substantially complete,” and requested the redeveloper make minor changes to its plans without mentioning the twelfth outstanding item. Two months later, the City had concerns about the density of the project, tabled the...

Time of Application Rule Protects Against Zoning Changes Only if an Application for Development Complies with All Ordinance Submission Requirements, New Jersey Appellate Court Rules

Time of Application Rule Protects Against Zoning Changes Only if an Application for Development Complies with All Ordinance Submission Requirements, New Jersey Appellate Court Rules

The New Jersey Appellate Division, in the published decision Dunbar Homes, Inc. v. The Zoning Board of Adjustment of the Township of Franklin, et al., recently declared what materials a developer must submit to a municipal land use board in order to constitute an “application for development” which triggers the protections of the Municipal Land Use Law’s (“MLUL”) “time of application” rule, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-10.5. Dunbar Homes establishes that an application is afforded the protections of the “time of application” rule from the time when an applicant submits an application form and all accompanying documents required by ordinance for approval. A formal finding that an application is “complete” by the municipality is not required. Thus, Dunbar Homes requires that the application essentially must be complete, even though that need has not yet been officially determined. The MLUL’s “time of application” rule provides that the ordinances and regulations in effect “on the date of submission of an application for development” govern review of that application. This reverses the longstanding “time of decision” rule whereby municipalities could change the zoning regulations at any time prior to the approval of an application for development, even where the change was enacted during a public hearing process...

Following the Expiration of the Permit Extension Act, Keep in Mind the Impact of Statewide Non-Residential Development Fees 0

Following the Expiration of the Permit Extension Act, Keep in Mind the Impact of Statewide Non-Residential Development Fees

With an improving economy, developers who have weathered the storms of economic recession and have projects approved prior to July 17, 2008, the effective date of the Statewide Non-Residential Development Fee Act, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-8.1 et seq. (the “Act”), may finally be in a position to construct many of these projects. However, with changes in the market and demand for certain types of commercial space outpacing those approved in the 1990s and early 2000s, approvals that have been tolled since 2007 by the Permit Extension Act (N.J.S.A. 40:55D-136.1 et seq.) may need to be altered to accommodate new marketplace demands. In seeking amendments of those approvals, developers should be aware of, and consider the potential application of, the affordable housing development fee to those projects.

FEMA Amendments to Base Floor Elevation Requirements, When Minor, Do Not Necessarily Give Rise to Hardship Showing for Height Variance Says NJ App Div 0

FEMA Amendments to Base Floor Elevation Requirements, When Minor, Do Not Necessarily Give Rise to Hardship Showing for Height Variance Says NJ App Div

In its recent decision in Richmond URF, LLC v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of the City of Jersey City, the Appellate Division held that a minor alteration in base floor elevation requirements in the wake of FEMA’s amendments to the regulations after SuperStorm Sandy does not necessarily give rise to showing a hardship in support of a height variance under N.J.S.A. 40:55D-70(d)(6).