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O''Donnell v. Koch

Decided: November 9, 1984.

JOHN F. O'DONNELL, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JEROME R. KOCH, CAROL A. KOCH HIGGINS, GEORGE J. KOCH FUNERAL HOME, INC., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT OF THE CITY OF BAYONNE, MUNICIPAL COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BAYONNE, A BODY POLITIC AND CORPORATE OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division, Hudson County.

Michels, Petrella and Baime.

Per Curiam

[197 NJSuper Page 136] Plaintiff, an objecting landowner, appeals the decision of the trial court upholding the grant of a variance by the Bayonne Municipal Council (Council) to defendant Jerome R. Koch, Carol A. Koch Higgins and George J. Koch Funeral Home, Inc. (applicants).*fn1

The applicants owned and operated a funeral home on the southwest corner of West 31st Street and Avenue C in Bayonne under a variance granted by the Bayonne Board of Adjustment (Board) in 1950. No mention was made in that variance application of a parking area.*fn2

The applicants submitted plans to the Bayonne Department of Community Development for a 13-space parking area on the vacant lots adjoining the funeral home. They received a June 4, 1980 letter of denial from the zoning officer indicating that the "proposal would be in violation of Sections 22-9e, 22-10.1, 10.4 and 22-14.1 of the Zoning Ordinance of the City of Bayonne," and that site plan review was required. By application dated September 23, 1980, with a copy of the June 4 denial letter attached, a variance was sought "in accordance with the plans filed herewith."

The 1980 zoning application*fn3 had indicated that the property on which the funeral home is located consists of four separate tax lots (numbered 23A, 24A, 25 and 26 in Block 197) with a combined frontage of 103.75 feet. The property also serves as the residence of Jerome Koch and Carol Koch Higgins. The funeral home itself lies entirely within the corner-most lots

(23A and 24A). Lots 25 and 26 adjoin an objector's property on the south and are essentially vacant except for a relatively small two-story frame garage on the rear-most portion of the property. The applicants sought a variance because of a lack of parking facilities as well as traffic problems in the area.

The area of Bayonne in which the funeral home is situated is apparently completely developed and heavily trafficked. The neighborhood in this residential zone includes various non-residential uses, including a church, a school, a library, an architect's office, several doctor's offices and a Knights of Columbus Hall. The funeral home proposed to provide for parking facilities on lots 25 and 26 solely for the use of its patrons.

Testimony presented before the Board on behalf of the applicant indicated that only about 40 funerals were conducted per year at the Koch Funeral Home. On those days on which wakes were conducted, the parking lot would be occupied by visitors from about 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Three spaces in the lot would be reserved for the Koch family and for employee use. The applicants had presented testimony about traffic hazards, including double parking and the hazard caused by funeral processions lining up the wrong way on a one-way street and difficulty in conducting funerals and inconvenience to patrons who often had to park several blocks away. The applicants planned to line up funeral processions in the proposed parking area to alleviate some of these problems.

The existing two-story garage was proposed to be demolished and shrubbery presently found on the lots was to be removed and replaced with a black-top surface having a 13 parking-space capacity, two of which would be for handicapped parking. A gate was to be constructed at the existing driveway entrance to the property on West 31st Street (a one-way street) which would be closed during nonbusiness hours to prevent access by people having no business at the funeral home. A 20 foot curb cut for a driveway had been proposed on Avenue C and provision made for limiting access during nonbusiness hours with a

chain. The ordinance allowed a 10 foot curb cut in a residential zone.

Because the parking area had to be lighted under the city ordinance, the applicant had originally proposed that the lights would be on 20 to 25 foot poles and shielded so as not to shine on the objecting neighbor's property. The objectors expressed doubts over the efficacy of the shields. They also complained that the ...


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