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Manalapan Realty, L.P. v. Township Committee of Tp. of Manalapan

June 6, 1995

MANALAPAN REALTY, L.P., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF MANALAPAN AND THE TOWNSHIP OF MANALAPAN, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS. MANALAPAN REALTY, L.P., A NEW JERSEY LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT, V. MANALAPAN TOWNSHIP PLANNING BOARD, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT. HOME DEPOT USA, INC., INTERVENOR-APPELLANT, V. TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF MANALAPAN, THE TOWNSHIP OF MANALAPAN, AND MANALAPAN TOWNSHIP PLANNING BOARD, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 272 N.J. Super. 1 (1994).

The opinion of the Court was delivered by Coleman, J. Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, and Garibaldi join in Justice Coleman's opinion. Justice Stein has filed a separate opinion Concurring in part and Dissenting in part.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coleman

(This syllabus is not part of the opinion of the Court. It has been prepared by the Office of the Clerk for the convenience of the reader. It has been neither reviewed nor approved by the Supreme Court. Please note that, in the interests of brevity, portions of any opinion may not have been summarized).

MANALAPAN REALTY, L.P. V. TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF MANALAPAN, ET AL. (A-61/62-94)

Argued January 17, 1995 -- Decided June 6, 1995

COLEMAN, J., writing for a majority of the Court.

The issue on appeal is whether two amendments to the Township of Manalapan's (Township) zoning ordinance that exclude Home Depot, U.S.A. Inc. (Home Depot) from Manalapan's C-1 regional commercial shopping-center district are substantially consistent with the Township's Master Plan (Master Plan).

Before 1990, the Township created a C-1 regional commercial shopping-center district through its zoning ordinance. The entire C-1 district is comprised of approximately 100 acres divided into two tracts, one of which is owned by Manalapan Realty, L.P. (Realty). Before October 1990, Realty built the Manalapan Mall on a portion of its property. On October 16, 1990, Realty submitted an application to the Township Planning Board (Board) for preliminary site-plan approval to expand its commercial-retail space and to rename the Mall the Manalapan Epicenter (Epicenter). The proposed Epicenter included a number of anchor stores, one of which was a home improvement center operated by Home Depot.

When the site-plan application was submitted for approval, and at the time of the first public hearing on the application on May 9, 1991, the Manalapan Land Use and Development Ordinance (Manalapan Ordinance) § 130.94 permitted retail shopping uses in the C-1 district but did not permit a warehouse use. One of the issues raised during the hearings before the Board was whether Home Depot was a retail store or a warehouse. Moreover, there was substantial public opposition to Home Depot as a proposed tenant in the Epicenter because of off-site traffic concerns and concerns about the nature of Home Depot's business.

At the Board's request, its senior supervising planner advised the Board on June 27, 1991 that Home Depot was a permitted retail store under the existing ordinance. After further public hearings and strong public opposition to Home Depot, the Township Committee on July 24, 1991 adopted two amendments to the zoning ordinance. The first of those amendments, Manalapan Ordinance § 130.94, more specifically defined the meaning of retail stores, shops and markets as permitted uses in the C-1 district. Excluded from the zone was any establishment engaged in the sale of lumber or building materials or in storing, displaying, or selling materials outside a completely enclosed building. The second amendment, Manalapan Ordinance § 130.52, added a subsection to define "building materials." Both of these amendments were adopted after the Board found them to be substantially consistent with the Master Plan that just previously had been adopted. These new amendments effectively excluded Home Depot from the C-1 district.

On September 11, 1991, Realty filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs challenging the validity of the amendments to the zoning ordinance. The Board approved Realty's site plan in its resolution on September 12, 1991, noting that its approval was based on Realty's site-plan amendment removing Home Depot as an anchor store. Realty filed a second complaint in lieu of prerogative writs challenging the Board's failure to resolve whether Home Depot was a permitted use prior to the amendments to the zoning ordinance.

The trial court consolidated the actions and granted Home Depot's request to intervene as a plaintiff. On September 23, 1992, the trial court concluded that the amendments to Manalapan's zoning ordinance were arbitrary and capricious and were therefore invalid. The court also concluded that the proposed Home Depot store was a permitted use under Manalapan's prior zoning ordinance, which the court reinstated.

The Township Committee appealed from, among other things, the trial court's judgment declaring the amended zoning ordinance invalid and the proposed Home Depot store a permitted use under the now reinstated prior ordinance. The Board also appealed from that part of the trial court order declaring Home Depot to be a permitted use. The Appellate Division consolidated these appeals.

A majority of the Appellate Division reversed the decision of the trial court, concluding that the essential parts of the amended ordinance are valid and that, although the definition of "building materials" might be overly broad, the offending language could be severed. Therefore, the matter was remanded to the trial court to consider whether the definition of "building materials" is overly broad. The Appellate Division also found that the amended ordinance had been properly adopted even if in response to public opposition; that the ordinance as amended does not represent spot zoning; and that the amended ordinance is not inconsistent with the Master Plan. One Judge Dissenting in part, concluded that the amended ordinance is inconsistent with the Master Plan and is therefore violative of the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL). The Dissent also concluded that banning the sale of building materials in the C-1 district was over inclusive and invalidates the ordinance because it there is no rational relationship between the amendments to the ordinance and the alleged evils sought to be addressed.

Realty and Home Depot appeal to the Supreme Court as of right based on the Dissent in the Appellate Division. Effective December 14, 1994, the Township Committee adopted new land-use regulations that contain a new, more restrictive, definition of "building materials."

HELD: The amendments to the Manalapan zoning ordinance, Manalapan Ordinance § 130.94 and § 130.52, are substantially consistent with the Master Plan and are, therefore, valid.

1. The Appellate Division did not make new factual findings in violation of its scope of appellate review. Rather, the Appellate Division disagreed with some of the trial court's legal Conclusions because they were inconsistent with well-established law. The Appellate Division properly confined its review to a determination whether the presumption of validity that attaches to the amendment had been overcome. (pp. 10-13)

2. The reasons given by the Township Committee, and acknowledged by the courts below, for amending the ordinance establish a reasonable relationship between the amendments and the objectives of the zoning ordinance. (pp. 13-18)

3. The amendments banning Home Depot from the C-1 district are not inconsistent with the Master Plan. The Board that adopted the Master Plan also determined that the zoning amendments were substantially consistent with the Master Plan. That determination should be accorded great deference. Moreover, Realty's and Home Depot's reliance on the existence of Channel Home Center is misplaced. Under the ordinance in effect in April 1990, Channel Home Center was regarded as a permitted use. Thus, it was a protected use and any revision to the Master Plan or amendments to the ordinance could not alter its status. In contrast, Home Depot was not operating in the C-1 district when either the Master Plan was adopted or the ordinance was amended. (pp. 18-20)

4. The decision not to permit the sale of "building materials" can serve valid zoning purposes and cannot be categorically adJudged as arbitrary and unreasonable. (pp.20-22)

Judgment of the Appellate Division is AFFIRMED.

CHIEF JUSTICE WILENTZ and JUSTICES HANDLER, POLLOCK, O'HERN and GARIBALDI join in JUSTICE COLEMAN'S opinion. JUSTICE STEIN filed a separate opinion Concurring in part and Dissenting in part.

JUSTICE STEIN, Concurring in part and Dissenting in part, writes separately to express his concern about the appropriateness of the Court's determination to decide and uphold in their entirety the validity of amendments to the Township's zoning ordinance that have since been superseded. Therefore, Justice Stein would have dismissed the appeal as moot.

COLEMAN, J.

This appeal requires us to determine whether two amendments to the Township of Manalapan's (Township) zoning ordinance that exclude Home Depot U.S.A., Inc. (Home Depot) from Manalapan's C-1 regional commercial shopping-center district are substantially consistent with the Township's Master Plan (Master Plan). A majority in the Appellate Division, in an opinion published at 272 N.J. Super. 1 (1994), held the amendments not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable, and therefore substantially consistent with the Master Plan. We agree and affirm.

I

A.

Before 1990, the Township created a C-1 regional commercial shopping-center district through its zoning ordinance. The entire C-1 district is comprised of approximately 100 acres divided into two tracts. The C-1 district is bounded by Syms Road to the north, Craig Road to the south and U.S. Highway 9 to the east. Plaintiff Manalapan Realty, L.P. (Realty) is the owner of one of the two tracts consisting of approximately fifty-seven acres. Before October 1990, Realty built the Manalapan Mall on a portion of its property that contains approximately 186,000 square feet of commercial space.

On October 16, 1990, Realty submitted an application to the Township Planning Board (Board) for preliminary site-plan approval to expand its commercial-retail space to approximately 500,000 square feet and to rename the mall the Manalapan Epicenter (Epicenter). The proposed Epicenter included a number of anchor stores, one of which was to be a "home improvement center" operated by Home Depot. Home Depot engages in a form of merchandising known as "warehouse selling" or "warehouse format of selling." This concept represents an expansion of traditional retail stores. Examples of warehouse selling stores are Toys "R" Us, Staples, an office supply store, and Shopper's Food Warehouse, a warehouse approach to supermarkets.

When the application for site-plan approval was submitted, and at the time of the first public hearing on the application on May 9, 1991, the Manalapan Land Use and Development Ordinance (Manalapan Ordinance), § 130.94, permitted the following pertinent uses in a commercial shopping center:

(1)

(a) Retail stores, shops and markets.

(b) Personal services.

(c) Offices and business services.

(d) Banks and fiduciary institutions.

(e) Indoor recreation ...


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