Plaintiff, a resident of Woodland Township, Burlington County, instituted this action in lieu of prerogative writ seeking judgment declaring unconstitutional an amendment to the municipal zoning ordinance. The questioned amendment affects sections 601 and 603 of the zoning ordinance of Woodland Township.
Section 601 was amended to read:
Purpose -- It is the purpose of this zone to preserve the open agricultural character of this section of the township, and at the same time, provide an area for large lot residential development, and/or Senior Citizens Communities. * * * [Amendment italicized]
Section 603, entitled "Special Uses," set forth seven special exceptions authorizing the zoning board of adjustment, with approval by the township committee, to permit certain uses to be made of lands in that district. By the amendment in question section 603 was enlarged to add an exception permitted in the residential-agricultural zone, under terms and conditions set forth therein as follows:
8. Senior Citizen Communities. In R-A Zones where one or more parcels of land having a contiguous total area of at least 500 acres are under common ownership or control, there may be established a Senior Citizen Community in accordance with the laws of the State of New Jersey and with the following additional requirements:
a. Age and Occupancy Requirements. The permanent residents of a Senior Citizen Community shall be confined to persons who are 52 years of age or over except that one child who is 19 years of age or over may be permitted to reside in any senior citizen dwelling unit occupied by his or her parent(s) or guardian(s). Full time occupancy of any residential unit shall be limited to 3 individuals.
Other conditions not in question here followed.
Plaintiff contends that the amendment in question is violative of the equal protection clause of the United States Constitution and that the case of Taxpayers Ass'n of Weymouth Tp., Inc. v. Weymouth Tp., 125 N.J. Super. at 376 (App. Div. 1973) supports the conclusion. It is argued that there is no reasonable relation between the age limitation and the unit permitted as against persons of other ages and the unit permitted.
The township, together with the planning board and building inspector as defendants, assert that the amendment is not discriminatory, but merely establishes standards for the development of senior citizen residential communities to promote the health and welfare of its occupants; that the amendment does not require a senior citizen community in the R-A zone, but merely permits it and does not exclude any class of persons from that zone. It is argued that the intent of this ordinance is to regulate the use of lands which have been voluntarily dedicated by its owners as residential areas for senior citizens as distinguished from control over
ownership of property based upon age classification held invalid in the ...