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Rutgers v. Piluso

Decided: January 11, 1971.


Convery, J.s.c.


This is an action in lieu of prerogative writs instituted by Rutgers, The State University (Rutgers), seeking a declaration that it is not subject to Piscataway Township's zoning ordinances. Pursuant to the provisions of the pretrial order, plaintiff moves for summary judgment on one of the counts of the complaint which seeks an adjudication of immunity. The Attorney General has been advised of this action and has previously received copies of the pretrial order and the memoranda on the motion for summary judgment.

The board of governors of Rutgers determined to erect 374 garden-type apartment units on property owned by Rutgers in Piscataway. The testimony before the board of adjustment revealed that these proposed units are one-bedroom and two-bedroom units and are to be used, depending on need and demand, for married students and their families or for single students. These proposed units are in Piscataway's ER-Education and Research zone.

In March 1964 Piscataway adopted a zoning ordinance which defined the uses specifically permitted in the Education and Research Zone, among others the following:

Dormitories for matriculated students; dormitories and other housing facilities for use by matriculated students and their families, provided, however, that such facilities do not exceed five hundred (500) units. [Art. XV, ยง 1, (B), 3(A)(iii)]

Rutgers already has approximately 500 apartments for use by matriculated students and their families in this zone.

Rutgers sought building and zoning permits for the project but they were refused and Rutgers was advised that it would need a variance. An application for a variance was filed and hearings held. On July 29, 1969 the board of adjustment made its findings of facts, ultimate findings and conclusions, and denied the requested variance.

This action was then instituted by Rutgers. As the action progressed, this court ordered a remand for the purpose of creating a record. The board again on September 9, 1970 denied the requested variance.

During the course of the presentation of testimony on behalf of Rutgers, the overwhelming need for the housing facilities in question was made. The New Brunswick campus includes Douglass College, the College of Agriculture, the Engineering College, Rutgers College, the Graduate School, Livingston College and the Medical School. It was testified that the present enrollment of Rutgers at the New Brunswick campus was 9,905 students, full and part-time. By 1980 the enrollment in New Brunswick alone would be 19,432 students, excluding the evening division. The present number of full-time graduate students was 1,788, and approximately half of them were married. The projection was that in 1980 there would be approximately 5,900 graduate students, half of them married.

The University presently has approximately 200 new apartments and approximately 350 units dating from World War II to house married graduate students. To handle the need for married students in the period 1970 to 1980, it was testified that a minimum of 1,500 apartments would be required and that the need probably could go as high as 2,000 apartments.

It was testified that during the delay since the University originally applied to Piscataway, costs have increased approximately $2,000 per apartment.

The urgency of the housing needs was also demonstrated by testimony that the demand was sufficient to fill all the units immediately upon completion. Further, the demand for

apartments beyond the University's facilities would exist for at least the next ten years. It was stipulated that the project in issue is one for the promotion of higher education, namely, the furnishing of housing.

To understand the present problem as to whether Rutgers is subject to the zoning ordinance of Piscataway Township, a review of the history of Rutgers and the events leading up to the adoption of the Rutgers, The State University Law, L. 1956, c. 61, N.J.S.A. 18A:65-1 et seq. , is necessary. Such a history, up to 1956, is fully incorporated in the opinion of Judge (now Justice) Schettino in Trustees of Rutgers College in N.J. v. Richman , 41 N.J. Super. 259 (Ch. Div. 1956), and need not be repeated here. Shortly after that opinion was rendered the Rutgers trustees voted to reorganize under the above act.

A major structural change in the relationship between Rutgers and the State occurred in 1956 (the 1956 Act), L. 1956, c. 61. Under that act Rutgers assumed what is substantially its present posture and was renamed as "Rutgers, The State ...

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