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Martin v. Cestone

Decided: December 3, 1954.

BROOKS C. MARTIN, BUILDING INSPECTOR OF THE TOWN OF BLOOMFIELD, NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
ANTHONY CESTONE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Clapp, Jayne and Francis. The opinion of the court was delivered by Clapp, S.j.a.d.

Clapp

[33 NJSuper Page 268] The issue here -- involving the law of zoning -- is whether a nonconforming right to use a parcel of land for the storage outdoors of heavy equipment, is to be limited to that portion of the parcel which was used for that purpose when the zoning ordinance was adopted. The County Court, on appeal from a municipal court, held that

in using the remainder of the parcel, there was a violation of the ordinance. It fined the defendant, and he appeals.

To put it more precisely, the court's holding was that on the town's tax map the parcel is divided into four lots, and only the most southerly of these lots, one with a frontage on the street of about 53 feet and a depth of 125 feet, was used for such storage in 1930 when the ordinance was adopted. The extension of the use to the three remaining lots, whose total frontage was 115 feet, constituted, in the court's view, the violation.

The issue, as we shall deal with it, opens up two questions: first, could it be said that in 1930 the nonconforming right extended to the whole of the parcel; second, if not, is the extension of the use thereafter to the three lots so unsubstantial a matter as to be unobjectionable?

Whether it was the purpose of the owner in 1930 to put the entire parcel to the above-mentioned use, is not established in the record. Certainly there is no indication whatever therein of any action taken in or before 1930 to carry out that purpose. Can it be said then -- and this is the first question stated -- that the nonconforming right extended in 1930 to the whole parcel?

A municipality's interests in what can be achieved through zoning in aider of a planned community may stand opposed to an individual's interests in the uses, now and in the future, to which his land might possibly be put. In this State the matter is dealt with by statute:

"Any nonconforming use * * * existing at the time of the passage of an ordinance may be continued upon the lot * * * so occupied * * *." N.J.S.A. 40:55-48.

In general, see Note , 102 U. of Pa. L. Rev. 91 (1952).

But it is an existing use occupying the land, that the statute protects; the statute does not deal in mere intentions. Cf. Chayt v. Board of Zoning Appeals , 177 Md. 426, 9 A. 2 d 747 (Ct. App. 1939); Town of Billerica v. Quinn , 320 Mass. 687, 71 N.E. 2 d 235 (Sup. Jud. Ct. 1947). It ought perhaps to go without saying, that we should not take into

consideration provisions of the instant zoning ordinance on the matter, that were noticed neither below nor here. See further Chayt v. Board of Zoning Appeals, supra.

Defendant relies heavily upon Lamb v. A.D. McKee, Inc. , 10 N.J. Misc. 649 (Sup. Ct. 1932), having to do with the excavation of sand and gravel. The case is abstracted in Burmore v. ...


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