(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
Joseph B. Paruszewski v. Township of Elsinboro, et al. (A-54-97)
GARIBALDI, J., writing for a unanimous Court.
The issue in this appeal is whether the governing body of a
municipality has standing to appear, through its attorney, before the
municipal zoning board of adjustment to oppose a nonconforming use
certification application and whether the appearance of the township
attorney creates an impermissible conflict of interest.
The Paruszewski family owns a farm in Elsinboro Township, a portion
of which had been used as an airfield on a limited basis. On June 27,
1991, after the township zoning officer directed the family to cease use
of the property as an airstrip until the necessary variances and
approval were obtained, Joseph Paruszewski filed a conditional use
application with the Elsinboro Township Planning Board. The Planning
Board referred the matter to the Township Committee, as governing body
of the municipality, to adopt a zoning ordinance dealing specifically
with basic utility airports. Relying on the opinion of a professional
planner, who advised that elimination of basic utility airports as a
conditional use was in the public's best interest, the Township
Committee adopted an ordinance to that effect. Consequently, the
Planning Board denied Paruszewski's application for a conditional use
Thereafter, in August 1994, Paruszewski filed an application with
the Township Zoning Board for certification that use of the farm as an
airfield was a pre-existing nonconforming use. The Township Committee
decided to oppose that application and directed the Township Attorney to
appear at the Zoning Board hearing to present its position. The
Township's position was based on the professional planner's opinion that
operating an airfield on the farm would be detrimental to the Township's
master plan and zoning scheme.
Following hearings on the application, the Zoning Board concluded
that the farm had been used as an airstrip only sporadically since its
acquisition by the family and, therefore, did not rise to the level of
an accessory use and was not a pre-existing, nonconforming use.
Paruszewski then filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs
against the Township Committee, the Zoning Board, and the Township of
Elsinboro. The Law Division subsequently granted the defendants' motion
for summary judgment, dismissing the complaint.
The Appellate Division affirmed, finding that the Township
Committee had standing to appear before the Zoning Board to oppose the
application because the proposed nonconforming use substantially
impaired the zoning plan and, therefore, constituted an ...