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Lumpkin v. Township Committee of Township of Bernards

Decided: September 9, 1946.

ROBERT C. LUMPKIN, PROSECUTOR,
v.
THE TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF BERNARDS, IN THE COUNTY OF SOMERSET, FRED W. KAMPMIER, JR., BUILDING INSPECTOR, AND THE TOWNSHIP OF BERNARDS, RESPONDENTS



On certiorari.

For the prosecutor, Kearns & Bruder (Anthony P. Kearns, of counsel).

For the respondents, Sandford Looker (John Beekman, of counsel).

Before Justices Bodine, Perskie and Wachenfeld.

Perskie

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PERSKIE, J. The question for decision is whether prosecutor was improperly denied a certificate of occupancy to use his building, located in a prohibitive zone, as a non-sectarian private boarding school for boys.

The prosecutor, an educator, acquired lands and premises located on the westerly side of Somerville Road (also known as Sanford Road) in the Township of Bernards, Somerset County, New Jersey, and designated as lot No. 11, in section 36 of the township tax map. The lands cover about 165 acres. The main building is situate about one-half mile from the main (Somerville) road, at the side of a mountain, in a

heavily wooded spot. It was constructed by prosecutor's predecessors in title along the lines of a European castle at a cost of between $80,000 and $95,000. It is built of stone primarily, with walls approximately two feet thick. The central portion of the building is of Norman architecture and the wings are designed to reproduce Elizabethan additions to an old castle. The building has a heavy slate roof and oak trim on the outside. It contains sixteen high and spacious rooms, the floors of which are of hardwood or flagstone and the walls are all insulated. The building is located in a sparsely settled section of the township. There is clear ground for about 50 feet around the building, woods surrounding three sides thereof and the fourth side overlooks open country. There are about a dozen buildings on the entire three mile length of the Somerville Road from the township boundary line and its connection with the Liberty Corner-Fox Hill Road. The first building from the prosecutor's building to the southwest is about a mile and four-tenths; the first building to the northeast from the prosecutor's building is about a mile and two-tenths therefrom; and the nearest building situate on the opposite side of the road from the prosecutor's building is about six-tenths of a mile therefrom. The many photographs submitted emphasize the beauty and splendor of the situs and the interior and exterior of the building.

To the end of using the stated building as a non-sectarian private boarding school to accommodate about thirty boys between the ages of six and fourteen years, prosecutor obtained the approval of our State Commissioner of Education, and arranged for a teaching staff of educators of high standing and repute.

In this background, prosecutor, on July 12th, 1945, made application to the building inspector of the township for a certificate of occupancy to use the described building for the aforestated purposes. The application was denied. That denial was obviously based upon the ground that prosecutor's premises were located in a residence A zone under the township zoning ordinance, adopted December 22d, 1937.

On appeal to the Board of Adjustment of the township, that body, after hearing on public notice, ...


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