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801 Avenue C Inc. v. City of Bayonne

Decided: March 5, 1974.

801 AVENUE C, INC., PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF BAYONNE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Handler, Meanor and Kole. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kole, J.s.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Kole

Before 1969 the zoning ordinance of the City of Bayonne, adopted in 1945, provided for a "C" residence district (one-family dwellings), an "A" residence district (dwellings without limitation as to height or number of units) and a "B" residence and light industrial district (mixed uses for residence and light industry). As a result over 1,000 apartment houses were built, scattered throughout the city as follows: 891 -- 3 stories; 2 -- 3 1/2 stories; 92 -- 4 stories; 31 -- 5 stories and over.

Prompted by notification from the Federal Government that the city might not be certified for a workable building program because its mixed uses resulted in built-in blight, the officials of the city in 1957 commenced extensive professional planning and zoning programs. After a number of comprehensive studies, plans and reports, a proposed revision of the zoning ordinance was prepared by Geiger & Associates in 1966. Many public hearings, as well as meetings with representatives of the various districts involved, were held.

Thereafter, in 1969, a new zoning ordinance was adopted to replace the 1945 enactment. That created two residence districts: R 1 (one-family residences) and R 2 (a general residence district permitting multi-family dwellings). Article 12, paragraphs 1201 and 1206, of the new ordinance limits the construction of multi-family dwellings in the R 2 zone to those with a maximum height of 2 1/2 stories and 35 feet, and containing no more than six dwelling units. The ordinance does not permit apartment houses of greater height or more units in any zone other than a special Urban Renewal Zone. The latter authorizes multi-family residences not to exceed three stories or 45 feet in height, with a maximum

of 36 units per acre for garden apartments and 48 units per acre for two-family townhouse use.*fn1 The evidence also indicates that a contemplated ten-story building on 24th Street is being or may be built by the Housing Authority of Bayonne under federal sponsorship to which, according to City Council President Collins, the zoning ordinance does not apply.

We sometimes hereafter refer to multi-family dwellings in excess of the height and unit limitations of Article 12, paragraphs 1201 and 1206, as high-rise apartment houses.

The owner of premises in an R 2 zone, known as 801 Avenue C, which it acquired in 1971, desired to raze an old frame dwelling and erect a six-story apartment house with 16 dwelling units. It instituted this action to have the Article 12 prohibitions referred to set aside as invalid. After a hearing the court granted the relief sought, not only as applied to plaintiff's land but also to all lands in the R 2 zone. This appeal by the city followed.

Except to the extent indicated below, we adopt, as supported by the evidence, the findings of fact made by the trial court.*fn2 We also agree with its conclusion that the "[motivation]

in adopting the ordinance of resolving future applications for apartment houses in excess of the height and unit restrictions by administrative controls is not in accordance with a comprehensive plan, is beyond the power of the municipality and is contrary to the purposes and methods of zoning set forth in the enabling statutes." Accordingly, the judgment is affirmed on that ground alone. See Glen Rock, etc. v. Glen Rock Bd. of Adj., 80 N.J. Super. 79, 89 (App. Div. 1963); Raskin v. Morristown, 21 N.J. 180, 184, 191 et seq. (1956).

Thus, we have no occasion to consider the soundness of the court's alternative basis for invalidating the provisions of the ordinance involved -- i.e., that under the facts it is unreasonable or arbitrary zoning in a fully developed municipality such as Bayonne, with over 1,000 high-rise apartment houses located throughout its residence districts, to preclude further development of multiple dwellings in excess of the limitations set forth in the ordinance. We ...


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