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Rockhill v. Township of Chesterfield

Decided: January 14, 1957.


On certified appeal from the Law Division to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court.

For reversal -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Wachenfeld, Burling and Jacobs. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Heher, J.


The issue here concerns the legal sufficiency of an ordinance of the defendant Township of Chesterfield adopted October 1, 1955, entitled "An ordinance regulating and restricting the location, the size and use of buildings and structures and the use of land in the Township of Chesterfield in the County of Burlington, providing for [its] administration and enforcement * * *, fixing penalties for the violation thereof and establishing a zoning board of adjustment."

The regulation is denominated a "zoning ordinance"; and its "purpose" is declared to be: "* * * lessening congestion in the streets; securing safety from fire, panic and other dangers; promoting health, morals or the general welfare; providing adequate light, air and sanitation, preventing the overcrowding of land or buildings; and avoiding undue concentration of population, * * *," the statutorily-enumerated considerations of policy involved in use zoning. R.S. 40:55-32.

But the zoning scheme laid down in the ordinance is not in the conventional pattern; and the inquiry is whether it conforms to the constitutional and statutory principle and policy.

Land and building uses, Article III, shall be "in conformance with the provisions" of the ordinance and the attached "schedule of regulations" entitled "Schedule of Permitted Uses and General Regulations"; and "In addition, certain uses may be permitted and certain modification of requirements may be made in accordance with the special provisions" of the ordinance. "Normal agricultural uses shall be permitted

in accordance with the general standards set forth in the schedule," Article IV, including "Accessory uses on the same lot with and customarily incidental to the principal use," in particular, "a roadside stand for sale of farm products conducted solely by the farm operator," and "Migrant housing facilities to be used only on a seasonal basis for migratory farm workers * * * when the buildings are on the farm property and migrant workers perform their labor for occupants of the farm," conditioned as to location in relation to the highway and the observance of statutes and state health regulations pertaining to "migrant housing."

"Residential uses shall be permitted in accordance with the general standards set forth in the schedule," Article V, including certain "Accessory uses on the same lot and customarily incidental to the permitted dwelling unit," provided that (a) "No dwelling unit shall be located within 250 feet of, or between buildings of an existing or permitted light industrial activity"; (b) where a dwelling unit is located on a corner lot, there shall be a side yard as therein prescribed; and (c) there shall be "off-street parking for all residences," as set down in the schedule.

Provision is then made, Article VI, for "Special Uses"; and this is the declared "Purpose": "In view of the rural characteristics of the Township, it is deemed desirable to permit certain structures and uses but only after investigation has shown that such structures and uses will be beneficial to the general development"; and "In order to assure that such structures and uses meet all requirements and standards, all applications for zoning permits shall be referred to the Planning Board for review in accordance with Revised Statutes 40:55-1.13." The planning board is directed to "investigate the matter in accordance with the standards herein provided and submit its recommendations in writing to the Governing Body within 45 days after the filing of the application with the Zoning Officer." But the board shall, before the recommendation is made, conduct a public hearing in accordance with the procedure provided by R.S.

40:55-1.7, on the notice "required for subdivision plat approval." And the governing body "shall, no later than the second regularly scheduled meeting after the receipt" of the board's report, "either approve or disapprove the application by resolution based on the standards as set forth" in the ordinance; and "if approved, the necessary zoning permit shall then be issued."

These are the stated "special structures and uses which may be permitted only in keeping with the special standards herein listed," Article VI: (a) an "existing one-family dwelling may be converted into multi-family dwelling units," subject to certain conditions and specifications and the submission of the plans to the planning board "prior to approval or disapproval"; (b) "Neighborhood business" may be permitted subject to prescribed physical conditions, including these particular uses: groceries and foodstuffs; package liquors; drugs and pharmaceuticals; confectionery; dry goods and notions; feed and grain; stationery; hardware and paints; radio and television services; books and tobacco; periodicals and newspapers; antiques; barber and beauty shops; tailoring and dressmaking; dry cleaning and laundry collection but not processing facilities; shoe repairing; banks and professional offices; and service or repair establishments not employing more than three persons, all "neighborhood business" to provide "off-street loading and unloading facilities * * * located on the same lot" but not "in the required front yard area," and to conform to regulations as to signs indicating the business use; (c) "Designed shopping center units may be permitted" subject to specified conditions, and "Any business use that is not specifically prohibited within the Township and not included in Section 3, paragraph b, or Article VI may be considered to be a permitted business use if the Planning Board deems such business use to be desirable and to the best interests of the Township," provided that "An area at least five feet in width and following the lot lines of the business property if adjacent to residential properties shall be properly landscaped to form a buffer screen between residential and [23 NJ Page 122] business uses," and the required illumination during evening business periods "shall be shielded from adjacent residential properties and public roads or streets"; (d) "Gasoline and Filling stations may be permitted" if certain requirements are met, provided that the "use shall be located on a lot whose lot lines are located not less than 300 feet from any existing dwelling and not less than 1,000 feet from any public school or church," and at least 25 feet from the street line and rear and side property lines, and "any gasoline station shall not be located at the corner of any dangerous street or road intersection which is so termed by the Township Committee"; (e) "Restaurants and roadside refreshment uses may be permitted," at the same distances from other land uses prescribed in (d) supra, and provided, inter alia, that parking space "shall be available to adequately meet maximum capacity conditions," and parking areas shall be illuminated during evening business operations and "shielded from adjacent residential properties and public roads or streets"; (f) "Light industrial uses and other similar facilities having no adverse effect on surrounding property and deemed desirable to the general economic well-being of the Township may be permitted," and "Included among such uses may be administrative offices, laboratories, research offices and light manufacturing or processing," provided that the "industrial ...

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