Carton, Kole and Larner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Carton, P.J.A.D.
The tangled litigation which produced the present appeals stems from the action of the Mount Laurel Township Planning Board in August 1973, approving, subject to certain conditions, subdivision of a 29-acre tract of land.
Two separate actions in the Chancery Division are involved. The first is an action brought in November 1974
by Mario and Elizabeth Barbieri against A. Louis and Rita Goldberg and Tadeusz and Helen Kanigowski for partition of the tract which was the subject of the subdivision proceeding. This action resulted in a consent judgment physically partitioning the property among the parties. The township made application to the trial judge to vacate the judgment, which the judge denied. The Township has appealed that action.
The second action is an independent suit brought by the township as plaintiff, seeking to set aside the partition judgment, to restrain the three couples from selling their property to third parties, and to require them to apply to the appropriate township authorities for subdivision approval. The judge dismissed this action and the township also appeals that determination. This court ordered consolidation of both appeals.
A detailed statement of the factual background of the various legal proceedings is necessary to place the relatively narrow issue in proper focus. The pertinent facts are essentially undisputed.
Plaintiff Mount Laurel Township is a township in Burlington County in which the approximately 29-acre tract of land in question is located. Defendant Cohen, Casel, Gerbarg & Logan ("Cohen," "partnership") is a partnership and the original owner of the tract, which fronts on Elbo Lane and is identified on the township tax map as Block 283, Lot 21. Defendants Marmer & Kapel, Inc. ("M & K") and Donald Kapel ("Kapel") are licensed real estate brokers in Moorestown, New Jersey, who were retained by the partnership to sell the property. Defendants Barbieri, Goldberg and Kanigowski ("defendants," "three couples") are the former contract purchasers and present owners of the tract.
In late 1972 defendants began negotiations with the partnership to purchase the property through M & K. The Kanigowskis wished to buy 14 acres of the property, the Goldbergs wanted approximately 8 acres, and the Barbieris wanted the remaining 6 acres. Each couple intended to construct
a single-family residence on its share of the land. The Kanigowskis also planned to cultivate flowers on their portion for use in their retail florist business, while the Barbieris and the Goldbergs proposed to raise and maintain horses for their personal use on their lots.
Pursuant to these negotiations Kapel, acting as representative of the partnership, applied to the township planning board in January 1973 for "minor" subdivision approval for the Elbo Lane parcel. Kapel indicated in the application that no new streets would be created by the subdivision and that the subdivision would "not change the nature of the neighborhood" or the topography of the land. Kapel also indicated that the proposed sale of two of the three lots to be created by the subdivision was scheduled for closing on April 1, 1973. Because Elbo Lane is a county road, Kapel also sought approval of the subdivision from the Burlington County Planning Board.
In succeeding conferences and correspondence with the township solicitor, Kapel explained that the three couples did not intend to further subdivide the parcel and that they wished to retain the farm-like atmosphere of the area. Kapel expressed the hope that the planning board would waive a number of requirements normally imposed upon "major" subdivisions under the township zoning ordinance, particularly that which would require the three couples to install sidewalks, curbs and gutters along the 1,200-foot ...