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Lakeland Parks Inc. v. Washington Township

Decided: January 25, 1977.


Carton, Kole and Larner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Larner, J.A.D.


Plaintiff Lakeland Parks, Inc. (Lakeland) owns a 63-acre tract of land in Washington Township which is bounded on the north by Asbury-Anderson Road, on the east by Route 31 and on the west by Bryants Road. In June 1974 Lakeland filed with the municipal planning board a plat of a proposed subdivision of two adjoining lots in the tract fronting on Bryants Road with each having a frontage of 175 feet and a depth of 230 feet, with the remainder of the tract left intact as depicted on the filed plat. The applicant sought a classification of the subdivision as "minor" under the applicable ordinance provision.

The planning board classified the subdivision as "major" and therefore subject to other ordinance and statutory regulations, basing its conclusion on the ground expressed in its minutes to the effect that "this subdivision can adversely affect the remainder of the parcel and adjoining property and that the granting of this subdivision without widening Bryants Road to its juncture with Asbury-Anderson Road would create a hazardous condition in case of fire or other emergency".

The owner's appeal to the governing body resulted in an affirmance of the "major" classification. The resolution of the township committee articulated the reasons for this classification as (1) the need for widening and paving of Bryants Road, and that without such "improvements" it would not be of sufficient width to provide for prospective traffic or reasonable access for fire fighting equipment; (2)

the proposed subdivision would involve the extension of municipal facilities and would conflict with the ordinance provisions "requiring the promotion of the public health, safety and general welfare"; (3) the proposed subdivision would adversely affect the development of the remainder of the parcel in that it would limit the design layout of future interior streets and drainage easements.

Upon this denial of a "minor" classification, Lakeland filed an action in lieu of prerogative writs seeking a reversal of the municipal action and a declaration that the proposed subdivision is "minor" and exempt under N.J.S.A. 40:55-1.14 and Article IV of the local subdivision ordinance. In addition it sought mandamus to compel the municipality to widen and pave Bryants Road and further included a count for monetary damages.

The trial judge heard the matter on the record before the planning board and entered judgment in favor of defendants on all counts. The judge minimized the claim of the subdivision's adverse effect upon the remainder of the acreage as well as the effect, if any, of the drainage which is produced by the subdivision of two lots and the possible construction of two homes thereon. Focusing his findings on the prime question of the classification of the subdivision, the judge determined that it was a major subdivision because "it [Bryants Road] has not been conclusively established as an existing street," and that it would thus "require the extension of municipal facilities" . . . "at the present state it would have to be extended and improved." Lakeland appeals from this determination.

Pursuant to the authority granted by N.J.S.A. 40:55-1.14 Washington Township adopted a subdivision ordinance which incorporated a provision for the exemption of minor subdivisions from its requirement. Article IV defines a minor subdivision as:

Any subdivision containing not more than three lots fronting on an existing street, not involving any new street or the extension of municipal facilities and not adversely affecting the development of

the remainder of the parcel or adjoining property, and not in conflict with any provision or portion of the master plan, official map, zoning ordinance or this ordinance.

Where a subdivision is classified as minor, the planning board is granted the power to approve the same. If the planning board classifies the subdivision as major, the procedure is outlined for preliminary and final approval through recommendation by the ...

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