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Graves v. Bloomfield Planning Board

Decided: October 19, 1967.


Ackerman, J.s.c.


This action in lieu of prerogative writs was commenced by plaintiffs to contest the validity of the action taken by the Bloomfield Planning Board on November 15, 1966 in approving a major subdivision which affects a single, undeveloped lot (Lot 22, Block 963) and extends Wagner Street. It is claimed that the lot in question is an undersized lot, lacking the necessary width or street frontage required by the zoning ordinance of Bloomfield. The planning board approved the subdivision without requiring the granting of a variance by the Bloomfield Board of Adjustment. It is contended that the action of the planning board violates the zoning ordinance. It is further contended that if the ordinance is construed to permit the action of the planning board without the necessity of an application to the board of adjustment for a variance and the granting of the same by that board, the zoning ordinance is invalid.

In accordance with the provisions of the pretrial order entered in the cause, the pertinent facts were submitted to the court by agreement of the parties and they are not in dispute. The lot in question is in an R-5, Single Family Zone. It is the only unimproved lot in the immediate area and it is conceded that it has been owned by Rowbert Developers, Inc. since June 24, 1928, and that said owner has owned no adjoining land since prior to the adoption of the first zoning ordinance by Bloomfield in 1930.

Prior to subdivision the lot was triangular in shape measuring approximately 173.78 feet on its southerly side, by 84.70 feet on its easterly side, by 193.23 feet on its northwesterly side, and its total area was approximately 7,350 square feet. A part of the northwesterly line, i.e. the most westerly portion of the hypotenuse of the triangle, formed the existing southerly dead-end boundary of Wagner Street, running at an angle across that street. Wagner Street is a

short dead-end street running south from Watchung Avenue for approximately 270 feet.

The application to the planning board was classified as one for a major subdivision under the land subdivision ordinance of the town because an extension of Wagner Street is involved. As a part of the approved subdivision, the westerly portion of the lot forming the apex of the triangle, measuring approximately 64.77 feet by 31.04 feet by 70.83 feet, is to be deeded to the Town of Bloomfield, and said land will be used to extend Wagner Street approximately 31 feet and to "square off" its present dead end. The remaining lot will be trapezoidal in shape and will have a new westerly boundary fronting on the new easterly side of Wagner Street as extended. It will measure approximately 109.01 feet at its southerly side, 84.70 feet at its rear or easterly side, 122.40 feet at its northerly side, and 31.04 at its front or westerly side, bordering on Wagner Street. It will contain approximately 6,500 square feet. According to the preliminary sketch dated November 1966, the proposed dwelling to be constructed on the lot will have a forward building or setback line 47 feet from Wagner Street, and at that point the width of the lot will exceed 50 feet. It is claimed, however, that the lot does not meet the minimum zoning standard, because its width or street frontage at its boundary with Wagner Street is only 31.04 feet. As stated above, the Planning Board approved the subdivision without requiring application to the Board of Adjustment for a variance.

The Town of Bloomfield adopted its first zoning ordinance on November 17, 1930, at which time, as stated above, the lot in question was owned by its present owner as an isolated lot with no adjoining land. The existing ordinance was adopted on June 15, 1959. Its provisions as to minimum area requirements may be summarized as follows:

Section A (2) of Article VI, "Residential Zones", which relates to area requirements for lots in an R-5 zone, incorporates by reference the provisions of article III, "Schedule

of General Requirements". The latter article, in prescribing area regulations for each zone, states that they are "subject to the other provisions of this ordinance," and that said regulations shall be deemed to be minimum requirements. With respect to lots in R-5 zones, it provides:

Lot Requirements Minimum Yard


Principal Building

Area Width ...

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