For reversal -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Proctor, Mountain and Sullivan and Judges Conford and Collester. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Conford, P.J.A.D., Temporarily Assigned.
The Appellate Division affirmed, for the reasons given by the trial court, a holding by the Law Division that the 1969 zoning ordinance of West Orange was unconstitutional as arbitrary and unreasonable in its restrictions as to permitted uses of properties owned by the four plaintiff ownership interests, each of which had brought an action in lieu of prerogative writs attacking the validity of the ordinance. We granted certification. 63 N.J. 245 (1973).
Three of the plaintiff proprietary interests, which for convenience we denominate respectively as the Manor, the Riding Club and the Eckerts, have a common zoning situation somewhat different from that of the fourth plaintiff, Motor Club of America (MCA). The properties of those three are, and since the original 1929 zoning ordinance of the town always have been, zoned for one-family residential use. But each is used, in whole or in part, for a long existing nonconforming or variance non-residential use.
The Manor is the site of a very large restaurant on a nine-acre parcel; the Riding Club comprises a substantial plant for recreational horse riding and allied activities; and the Eckerts' property is the site of a small wood and fence business as well as three residences. These properties (except for Riding Club, which is west of Eckerts') are situated on
the westerly side of Prospect Avenue, a major north-south county road, more or less close to the T-intersection of Woodland Avenue (an east-west street) with Prospect Avenue. That intersection is about a half-mile north of the major street intersection of Prospect Avenue and Eagle Rock Avenue, three of the four corners of which, together with their immediate proximate areas, are devoted to substantial non-residential uses. The most prominent of these is a large Korvette Shopping Center of about 37 acres on the northwest corner of the said intersection, established about 1962. The Korvette tract includes a bank and a separate automotive supply store.
The MCA property is a 9 I/2 acre tract of vacant land with about 350 feet of frontage on the westerly side of Prospect Avenue and 1,100 feet in depth, immediately north of the Korvette parcel. The Prospect Avenue frontage of MCA, along with a roughly similar tract north of it owned by Kruvant (not a party), is zoned O-R, which is basically restricted, so far as commercial use is concerned, to 2 I/2 story (not over 35 feet high) office building or research laboratory uses. The rear 150 feet of MCA is zoned residential, similar to the general area to the west.
The MCA-Kruvant parcels are bounded on the north by Nicholas Avenue, part of which, for some distance west of Prospect Avenue, is a paper street. The Riding Club and Eckert properties lie between Nicholas Avenue and Woodland Avenue, the former fronting on Woodland. Woodland Avenue is a moderate-traffic, east-west street running from Prospect Avenue to Pleasant Valley Way, a major north-south road about 3/4 mile to the west. Except for the Riding Club all of the territory abutting Woodland Avenue, and all near it except Eckerts' and Manor, is developed exclusively for moderate sized, attractive one-family residences. This residential development includes all the area abutting and west of the Manor. An elementary school stands in the center of this residential section. The area west of Kruvant, MCA
and Korvette is all zoned residential but as yet is largely undeveloped.
West Orange is predominantly a single-family residential community, characterized by neighborhood shopping areas, some golf courses and public parklands, and a few small two-family residential and industrial sections. The area in dispute in this case is in the north-central part of the town.
The entirety of the lands fronting on the easterly side of Prospect Avenue from Eagle Rock Avenue to well north of all of the properties here involved consists of the South Mountain Reservation maintained as undeveloped parkland by the Essex County Park Commission. North of the Manor property on the west side of Prospect Avenue is the golf course of the Montclair Golf Club. North of that to the nearby Verona city line, and beyond, there is one-family residential development on both sides of Prospect Avenue.
Prospect Avenue at the location of the subject properties is a two-lane, very heavily trafficked thoroughfare, with dangerous bends in the road. The intersection of Prospect and Eagle Rock Avenues becomes clogged during rush hours and over weekends. Essex County has been trying to interest the State in taking over Prospect Avenue and widening it to four lanes. This will become particularly vital with the impending opening of an exit onto Prospect Avenue, a half mile south of Eagle Rock Avenue, from the recently completed Interstate Highway 280.
The topography of all the subject properties is characterized by a more or less gradual but substantial decline in a westerly direction, from the level of Prospect Avenue, reaching a low point of 50-60 feet below Prospect Avenue at the westerly portion of the MCA tract. This condition, coupled with Prospect Avenue traffic density, renders difficult the emergence of vehicles from Woodland Avenue and from private driveways onto Prospect Avenue.
I. Background of the 1969 Zoning.
West Orange engaged the planning firm of Robert Catlin and Associates in 1963 to consult with the Planning Board in the preparation of a comprehensive master plan for the town. Russell L. Montney, a professional planner, was in charge of the work for Catlin. This project led to the adoption of a comprehensive master plan by the Board in June 1966. The plan recommended, among many other things, that the Manor, Eckert and Riding Club properties be devoted to "commercial and non-residential special uses," but that was contrary to Montney's views as to the latter two properties ...