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Paruszewski v. Township of Elsinboro

May 18, 1998

JOSEPH B. PARUSZEWSKI, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF ELSINBORO, TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF TOWNSHIP OF ELSINBORO AND THE ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT FOR THE TOWNSHIP OF ELSINBORO, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

SYLLABUS

(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).

Joseph B. Paruszewski v. Township of Elsinboro, et al. (A-54-97)

Argued January 21, 1998

Decided May 18, 1998

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

permit.

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 ...


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