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Harrington Glen Inc. v. Municipal Board of Adjustment of Borough of Leonia

Decided: June 3, 1968.


For reversal -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Haneman. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Francis, J.


This is a zoning variance case. The Law Division reversed the denial of the variance application by the Board of Adjustment. In turn the Appellate Division reversed the Law Division holding that on the record presented plaintiffs had not shown that the action of the Board was arbitrary or unreasonable. This Court granted certification. 49 N.J. 369 (1967).

The lot in question is located on the easterly side of Glenwood Avenue, Leonia, N.J. It has a frontage of 40 feet on Glenwood Avenue and a depth of 122 feet; the total area is 4880 square feet. The northern extremity of Glenwood Avenue dead-ends at the Englewood Golf Course. Plaintiffs' lot is within the block of Glenwood Avenue which terminates at the golf course. It is separated from the golf course by four tax-map lots with a frontage of 107 feet. The four lots are in a single ownership, and contain a one-family

dwelling, its southerly side being very close to plaintiffs' northerly line.

Some time after Mr. and Mrs. Pou acquired their property in 1932, it was placed in the A-2 residential zone by the Borough zoning ordinance. The record inexplicably does not show when the designation was made, i.e. whether in the original zoning ordinance, which apparently was adopted after 1932, or whether the allocation to the A-2 zone occurred in 1955 when the ordinance was revised. Whatever may be the chronology, it is undisputed that, when acquired, the Pou lot was not in the A-2 zone with its frontage or side-yard requirements. Moreover, there is no proof in the record to show the existence of either a zoning ordinance in 1932, or any front-foot or side-yard requirement for building lots at that time.

The A-2 zone is restricted to one-family dwellings. To qualify for building purposes, lots in the zone must have a minimum frontage of 80 feet, a minimum area of 8000 square feet, and the construction must have side yards totaling 18 feet, no one of which can be less than eight feet.

On June 11, 1965, Mr. and Mrs. Pou contracted to sell the lot in question to Harrington Glen, Inc. for $5,000. Completion of the transaction was conditioned upon obtaining a variance from the frontage and side-yard requirements of the A-2 zone so that Harrington could build a one-family home thereon. The request for a building permit having been refused by the Borough building inspector, Harrington appealed to the Board of Adjustment for a variance to permit the proposed home to be constructed on the Pou lot with its 40-foot frontage and 4880 square foot area, and, as the plans disclosed, with a seven-foot side yard on each side. The appeal was based upon N.J.S.A. 40:55-39(c) which authorized the Board of Adjustment to grant a variance.

"Where by reason of exceptional narrowness, shallowness or shape of a specific piece of property, * * * or by reason of other extraordinary and exceptional situation or condition of such piece of property, the strict application of any regulation enacted under the

act would result in peculiar and exceptional practical difficulties to, or exceptional and undue hardship upon the owner of such property * * *."

The Board conducted a hearing to consider the matter.

At the hearing it appeared that the existing homes on Glenwood Avenue in the block in which the Pou lot is located are in the low to mid-$30,000 price range. On the westerly side of Glenwood Avenue within this block the property is in the A-3 one-family residence zone. The front-line requirement for that zone is 50 feet. Two houses have been built on that side of the street, none, however, with less than 80-foot frontage. (Of course, any further construction may be on 50-foot lots.) The same is true of those on the easterly side in the A-2 zone; the one house on that side has the 107 foot frontage. The first intersecting street to the south on Glenwood Avenue is Hillside Avenue. Property on Hillside Avenue to the west of Glenwood Avenue is in the A-3 50-foot frontage zone. A number of the homes on both sides of Hillside Avenue have 50-foot frontages or less. Two lots with homes on them have 25-foot frontages. They are just a short distance west of Glenwood Avenue. To the east of ...

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