Wood, Wm. Fillmore, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).
This action is brought by the plaintiffs in lieu of prerogative writ to set aside the grant of a variance by the Common Council of the City of Plainfield (hereinafter called the Council) to the defendant H.M.L. Corp. (hereinafter called the applicant). The variance was recommended by the Board of Adjustment (hereinafter called the Board).
Plaintiffs contend (1) that the action of the Council was arbitrary, unreasonable and capricious and (2) that a member of the Board, Hyman Abrams, had a conflict of interest arising from the fact that his nephew, Norman Abrams, was
a partner in the law firm of Abrams, Kestenbaum, Hendricks & Reina, which represented the applicant before the Board.
The first contention presents no difficulty. The actions of the Board and the Council were clearly justified by the circumstances. The Board found that the proposed use of applicant's property was in keeping with the present character of the neighborhood. This finding is well supported by the facts.
At the request and in the presence of all counsel I viewed the area.
I turn now to a statement of the essential facts. Applicant's property is a vacant lot known as 813-823 West Front Street and is located in "C" Residence Zone. Use of property in that zone for commercial purposes is not permitted by the Zoning Ordinance. Applicant sought and obtained a variance for the purpose of constructing a one-story commercial building to be used for retail sale of motor vehicle tires, tubes and "allied service products," the quoted term being defined as products and services pertaining to the wheels, such as "front-end alignment, brakes, shocks and things of that nature." The motor vehicles to be serviced are to consist of passenger cars and small trucks, with cars accounting for the major portion of the business.
Applicant's lot is located on the southerly side of West Front Street approximately 161 feet west of its intersection with Grant Avenue. On that side of West Front Street there are business establishments extending from the lot several hundred feet in each direction. In the easterly direction there is a continuous line of such establishments for a distance greater than a normal city block. The area between applicant's property and Grant Avenue (i.e., on the southwesterly corner of West Front Street and Grant Avenue) is used for a Gulf service station operated by Plaintiff Central Gulf, Inc. Directly across Grant Avenue (i.e., on the southeasterly corner) is a Sunoco service station. Next come a furniture warehouse outlet, a Midas Muffler shop, eight other business enterprises and one vacant store. On Grant Avenue
adjacent to the rear of the Sunoco station and extending a considerable distance in an easterly direction along the rear of the other establishments mentioned is a fuel oil and coal business. Although there is a dwelling house (owned by Plaintiffs Kremer) adjacent to applicant's property on the westerly side, this house is of older vintage and presumably it has been there for a considerable period of time. It is out of character with the surroundings. Adjacent to the house is another vacant lot and adjacent to that lot is another fuel oil and coal business. West of that business area are two buildings that are used respectively for a research plant and a small factory devoted to assembling and packaging novelty items.
The rear of applicant's premises is adjacent to the mainline of the Central Railroad of New Jersey. On the other side of the ...