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Longridge Builders Inc. v. Planning Board of Township of Princeton

Decided: November 24, 1967.

LONGRIDGE BUILDERS, INC., PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
PLANNING BOARD OF THE TOWNSHIP OF PRINCETON, IN THE COUNTY OF MERCER AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY, AND THE TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF PRINCETON, IN THE COUNTY OF MERCER AND STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Conford, Collester and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Conford, S.j.a.d.

Conford

This is an appeal from Judge Bennett's decision in the Law Division that defendant planning board had no statutory right or ordinance power to condition its approval of plaintiff's subdivision (below and hereinafter referred to as "Point of Woods") on the latter agreeing to pave an off-site, previously dedicated, but as yet unopened road for a distance of 361 feet beyond the subdivision line to Autumn Hill Road, a public thoroughfare to the north of plaintiff's property. The general facts and circumstances are concisely set forth in the trial court's opinion, 92 N.J. Super. 402 (Law Div. 1966), and we refer thereto for purposes of this opinion. However, the report of the case fails to set forth the board's findings on the remand directed by the trial court. Some of those findings are significant and are here recited in material part:

"2. Woods Way extension [the road in question] was required by the Planning Board to be dedicated for public street purposes in connection with the subdivision, in 1956, of property to the north of Point of Woods. This reservation was for the express purpose of affording future access to the lands now forming the northern part of Point of Woods. It was expressly requested by the then owner of said lands, who was the immediate predecessor in title of the present owner thereof.

3. * * * There are approximately 2,650 running feet of new roads within the boundaries of the subdivision and Woods Way extension is 361 feet long.

5. The construction of Woods Way extension is reasonably necessary in the public interest and for the public safety and Welfare, in that it will provide an appropriate continuous extension of existing and mapped streets, thereby implementing planning decisions made in 1956 for the benefit and at the request of the then owner of part of the lands comprised within this subdivision. By providing double access to the subdivision, it will facilitate traffic circulation and service and maintenance of the area, especially in times of emergency (fire and police vehicles and ambulance), and it will accord with the

policy of the Board that more than one subdivision access be provided, where feasible.

7. The construction of Woods Way extension will confer some benefit upon the lands to the north of Point of Woods, as well as upon the Point of Woods subdivision itself. The nature of that benefit, for the most part, is such as would accrue to the public generally from any extension of public streets in a subdivision. There would be little or no benefit conferred specially upon the Autumn Hill lots adjacent to the extension, as they already have frontage on an existing public street. The subdivision to the north of Point of Woods would also receive the benefit of double access, as would Point of Woods. However, the subdivision to the north was required to, and did, make a contribution to that double access by dedicating a 50 foot wide, 360 foot long right-of-way for this very extension, in anticipation of the future development of lands now constituting part of Point of Woods. The paving of that extension was properly deferred until that future development actually took place, as the extension would lead to nowhere until that time. Recognizing the difficulty of achieving mathematically precise apportionment of the cost of benefits conferred by subdivision improvements among subdivision developed at various times and the general public, and finding that Woods Way extension will confer a direct and special benefit upon Point of Woods, and being of the opinion that any benefit therefrom to lands to the north will be only incidental, except as to double access for which those lands have already made an equitable contribution in the form of a dedicated right-of-way, the Board finds that it is altogether reasonable and equitable, from the viewpoint of benefit, that the Point of Woods subdivision should bear the cost of constructing Woods Way extension."

To be considered along with the statutory excerpts quoted and cited in the opinion of the trial court is N.J.S.A. 40:55-1.21. For convenience, that section and N.J.S.A. 40:55-1.20 are here set out together:

40:55-1.20

"In acting upon plats the planning board shall require, among other conditions in the public interest, that the tract shall be adequately drained, and the streets shall be of sufficient width and suitable grade and suitably located to accommodate the prospective traffic, to provide access for fire-fighting equipment to buildings and to be coordinated so as to compose a convenient system, conforming to the official map, or if there is no official map, relating properly to the existing street system. Where the planning board after hearing has adopted portions of the master plan with proposals regarding the street system within the proposed subdivision, the board may require

that the street shown conform in design and in width to the proposals shown on the master plan. No street of a width greater than fifty feet within the right-of-way lines may be required unless said street already has been shown on such master plan at the greater ...


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