(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
Township of Stafford v. Stafford Township Zoning Board of Adjustment and
GARIBALDI, J., writing for a unanimous Court.
The issue in this appeal is whether a municipal governing body has
standing to challenge the certification of a nonconforming use by the
zoning board and, as a threshold inquiry, whether an applicant seeking
certification of a nonconforming use, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-68
("Section 68"), must comply with the notice requirements of N.J.S.A.
40:55D-12 ("Section 12") of the Municipal Land Use Law ("MLUL"). In a
companion case, Paruszewski v. Township of Elsinboro, also decided
today, the Court held that, in certain limited circumstances, a
municipal governing body has standing to appear before the zoning board
of adjustment to oppose a nonconforming use certification petition.
Hugh Schultz owns property at Lot 12 in Stafford Township on which
he operates his business, Manahawkin Auto Sales. He also used adjoining
Lot 13 to display and store cars. In January 1995, a Deputy Code
Enforcement Officer served Schultz with a violation notice, informing
him that his car business was being operated on Lot 13 in violation of
the Stafford code. In response to that notice, Schultz filed an
application with the Stafford Township Zoning Board of Adjustment
requesting certification that the sale, purchase and repair of
automobiles on Lot 13 was a pre-existing nonconforming use.
The Zoning Board held a public hearing in July 1995 to consider
Schultz's application. However, Schultz never provided notice of that
hearing to owners of property within 200 feet of Lot 13 and did not
publish a notice in the appropriate newspaper. At the hearing, no one,
with the exception of the township deputy code enforcement officer,
appeared in opposition to Schultz's application. The Township of
Stafford attributes that fact to lack of notice. Based on the testimony
presented, the Zoning Board approved Schultz's application, finding his
use of Lot 13 for storage and display of cars to be a pre-existing
In August 1995, the Township filed a complaint in lieu of
prerogative writs in Superior Court, Ocean County. The Zoning Board
subsequently joined in the Township's brief, Concurring that its own
decision should be overturned on appeal. The Law Division found that
the Township had no standing because "the matter before the Board was so
narrow in scope" that there was no actionable risk to the character of
The Appellate Division reversed and vacated the Zoning Board's
certification, without prejudice to Schultz's right to reapply to the
zoning board on proper notice to the neighboring landowners. The panel
specifically found that the Board had no jurisdiction to hear Schultz's
nonconforming use certification application in the absence of notice to
neighboring landowners within 200 feet of Lot 13. ...