Q&A

Our stellar planning and zoning professionals have a responsibility to execute New Jersey’s intricate
web of land use laws. In 2019, one of our goals is to produce a quarterly publication that addresses
questions about the application of the MLUL and case law to everyday zoning and planning review.
In the anonymous submission box below, please feel free to ask your questions that might require the
interpretive help of one of our land use attorneys. You may encounter these questions in your day-to-
day work or even have them posed to you by colleagues. An example is provided below to get your wheels turning! We look forward to reading and answering
your submissions!*

Question/Problem

The governing body down zoned a neighborhood from a minimum of 1 acre to 3 acres. Although the Master Plan suggests the lots would be “grandfathered”, the reality is that the new zoning ordinance caused homes on 1 acre lots in this zone to become valid pre-existing non-conforming structures. Which means they can continue; but they cannot be expanded without a trip to the Zoning Board.

A Potential Legislative Solution

I am certain that the governing body did not mean to inconvenience the existing homeowners; but zoning officers must follow the law. In such a situation a potential legislative solution would be to amend the new 3 acre zone to include the following language under permitted uses:
“Additions are permitted on lots of 1 acre or more that predate this ordinance, provided any addition can be constructed in accordance with the balance of the 3 acre zone standards including building coverage”

Final thoughts

When you get this situation it is advisable to evaluate all the variances that might be required. While knowing that the undersized lot is nonconforming is very important, it might help the political dynamics if you could point out the lot in question needed to go to the Board for other reasons as well.
*The legal opinions expressed in our Q&A publications are intended to provide general legal guidance. Every matter you face turns on its own unique facts and circumstances; as such, the NJAZAPA recommends that you consult your municipality’s Attorney prior to following the advice in this column.