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Borough of Bay Head v. MacFarlan

Decided: March 25, 1986.


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

Furman, Petrella and Ashbey. The opinion of the court was delivered by Petrella, J.A.D.


The principal issue on this appeal is the narrow one of whether enforcement of the zoning ordinance of the Borough of Bay Head (Borough), as enacted in 1979, is limited to the building inspector, or whether enforcement may be by private complainants.

On October 15, 1984, Allan D. MacFarlan's neighbor, Lucille Bitter, who lived at 541 West Lake Avenue, signed a complaint in the municipal court charging defendant MacFarlan with violating the Board's 1979 Municipal Land Use Ordinance on October 1, 1984. At trial the complaint was amended to allege violations of provisions of the ordinance which prohibited alteration, modification, enlargement or expansion of a nonconforming use and prohibited changing of a nonconforming use to a different or additional nonconforming use. At the end of

complainant's case defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint because it had not been signed by the Borough's zoning officer and on the alternative ground that the Borough failed to establish a prima facie case was denied by the municipal court judge. The judge found MacFarlan guilty of violating the municipal ordinance as charged and imposed a fine of $100, which was suspended. MacFarlan appealed to the Superior Court, Law Division, and after a trial de novo on the record below, defendant was again found guilty of violating the ordinance. The judge likewise imposed a $100 fine which was suspended.

A brief review of the facts will provide the background of this appeal. MacFarlan resided in premises at 539 West Lake Avenue in the Borough from 1960 to 1968 as a tenant. In 1968 he acquired ownership of those premises and is still the record owner.

A February 6, 1979 amendment to the Borough zoning ordinance resulted in MacFarlan's property and adjacent properties being placed in an R-50 residential zone. Under the prior ordinance in effect since 1965, defendant's premises had been in the marine commercial zone which allowed such uses as "[m]arine services such as dockage, boat hauling, boat building and sales, and boat repairs. . . ." On MacFarlan's property was one building which was divided into three sections: a small front portion was used as an office, the middle portion was used as a warehouse and working area, and the rear portion was used as a residence. There was testimony that the building was essentially of the same configuration and use at the time the 1979 ordinance was adopted.

Defendant testified that he had used the premises for marine commercial uses, including boat repairs, prior to the adoption of the 1979 ordinance and had used power hand tools in doing that work. In 1980 MacFarlan rented the property to a Steven Wiperman who did the same general kind of work on the premises, except that his power tools consisted largely of

stationary machinery. Generally it is not for us, but for the trier of the facts, to resolve the conflicting testimony about whether the use in 1980 was an expansion of the prior use, thus violating the protected nonconforming use status of the property.*fn1

Consideration of the issue of standing of Lucille Bitter as a complainant begins with an examination of the enforcement provisions of the current municipal zoning ordinance and of its predecessor. It appears that in 1979 the Borough's governing body intended to restrict the counterpart provisions of its 1965 ordinance which had allowed taxpayers to enforce its zoning ordinance. The 1965 zoning ordinance provided in ยง XIII for enforcement of its provisions in the following language:

A. Enforcement. The provisions of this Ordinance shall be administered and enforced by the Zoning Officer. In the absence of a Zoning Officer these duties shall be performed by the Building Inspector. Where, hereafter, in this Ordinance reference is made to the Zoning Officer and such Zoning Officer shall not have been appointed to such office, all references thereto shall be deemed to apply to the Building Inspector of the Borough. The Zoning Officer shall have the power to inspect or cause to be inspected any building, structure, ...

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