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Amg Associates v. Township of Springfield

Decided: May 9, 1974.

AMG ASSOCIATES, A NEW JERSEY PARTNERSHIP, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF SPRINGFIELD, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, THE TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF SPRINGFIELD AND PAUL GREENSTEIN, AS BUILDING INSPECTOR OF THE TOWNSHIP OF SPRINGFIELD, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS, AND THE BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT OF THE TOWNSHIP OF SPRINGFIELD, DEFENDANT



For reversal and remandment -- Justices Jacobs, Hall, Sullivan, Pashman and Clifford, and Judges Conford and Collester. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Hall, J.

Hall

[65 NJ Page 103] This zoning case involves the following situation: A municipality strip zones the frontage along a main thoroughfare for certain business uses to a specified depth, regardless of property lines. The land to the rear, fronting on side streets, is essentially limited to residential use. An

owner's main street property extends into the residence zone, resulting in a so-called "split lot." That portion limited to residential use is much too small to meet the minimum area, frontage and side yard requirements of a lot in that zone. Even were some variance therefrom granted, the segment could not practically accommodate an acceptable dwelling. The consequence is that this rear portion is unusable to the present owner for any purpose unless some business use is permitted. The questions presented are whether the zoning ordinance, as applied to such portion of a main thoroughfare lot, is invalid as confiscatory and, if so, whether and to what extent the owner should be permitted to use it in connection with his utilization of the major front part of the lot. The problem is a typical and recurring one, although this court has never previously been called upon to decide it.

In the case before us the questions were answered in plaintiff's favor by the Law Division, sub nom. Grate and AMG Associates v. Township of Springfield, 117 N.J. Super. 130 (1971).*fn1 On the municipality's appeal, the Appellate Division reversed and directed judgment for defendants. 123 N.J. Super. 295 (1973). We granted plaintiff's petition for certification. 63 N.J. 582 (1973).

Plaintiff's property consists of four contiguous lots fronting on the northerly side of Morris Avenue (State Highway Route 24) in Springfield, Union County. They comprise the entire block from Short Hills Avenue west to Lewis Drive, a distance of over 250 feet. The total area is about an acre. The depths of the respective lots vary considerably. Lot 1, the most easterly, with a frontage of 105 feet, extends 184 feet deep along Short Hills Avenue. Before plaintiff's purchase it was in separate ownership from the other three and occupied by an old house. Lot 2, the next westerly, has a frontage of 60 feet and a depth of 195 feet. It was likewise formerly the site of an old house. Lots 3 and 4 front a total of 89 feet with a depth of 118 feet, the side line of lot 4 running that distance along Lewis Drive. An antique business was previously conducted in an old barn thereon by the landowner, who also owned lot 2.

The applicable zoning ordinance (referred to as the 1967 ordinance, although not adopted until 1968) zoned the frontage along both sides of Morris Avenue from Short Hills Avenue west for a distance of three blocks as an "O" district to a depth of 150 feet. The land to the rear, extending a considerable distance to the township line and fronting on side streets, is in an "S-60" zone. Permitted uses there are limited to detached single family dwellings, plus certain religious and public uses, and required minimum lot dimensions are an area of 7,500 square feet, a width of 60 feet, a depth of 100 feet and two side yards of 8 feet each. The area is completely built up with older houses of good quality on small lots, many of which do not conform with these dimensional provisions. One such dwelling, fronting on Short Hills Avenue, abuts the rear of plaintiff's lots 1 and 2.

The O zone allows only office buildings (not otherwise defined, except that retail sales are prohibited) and uses permitted in and under the requirements of the S-60 district. For office buildings, a minimum lot area of 20,000 square feet is required, together with a minimum lot width of 100

feet and depth of 100 feet. Minimum yards of 12 feet on the front, 50 feet in the rear and 10 feet on each side are specified. A maximum height of four stories is allowed, but the building may not cover more than 40% of the lot area. In addition, off-street parking must be provided under a formula of one space for each 300 square feet of floor area and a 10 foot fenced and landscaped rear buffer zone must be maintained where an O district abuts a residence district. The maximum size of an office building is thus actually determined by the necessary compliance with all these auxiliary requisites.

The 150 foot depth line split lots 1 and 2 of plaintiff's property with the result that a portion thereof aggregating 6,237 square feet, roughly 15% of plaintiff's entire property, is in the S-60 zone. This is made up of the last 34 feet of lot 1 abutting Short Hills Avenue, about 105 feet wide, and the contiguous last 45 feet of lot 2, about 60 feet in width (which would be landlocked if the two lots were in separate ownership). Even taking both together, the portion falls far short of S-60 zone minimum dimension requirements for construction of a dwelling thereon.

East of Short Hills Avenue, the O zone depth along both sides of Morris Avenue to the central retail business district of the community, a distance of a half mile or so, is 200 feet rather than 150 feet. Due to the great variation in the depths of properties fronting on Morris Avenue, numerous residential properties fronting on side streets are wholly or partly within the O zone, as is the case with a dwelling to the rear of plaintiff's lots 3 and 4. Along all of Morris Avenue there is a great mixture of uses -- office buildings, retail and service establishments, garden apartments, and old dwellings remaining from the street's former residential character. This mixture is the result of pre-ordinance uses and commercial uses permitted under the less ...


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