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Menlo Park Plaza Associates v. Planning Board of Township of Woodbridge

December 04, 1998


Before Judges Baime, A. A. Rodr¡guez, and Kimmelman.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kimmelman, J.A.D.

[9]    Argued November 5, 1998

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County.

Plaintiff, the proposed developer of eighty-two single-family units on a forty-five acre tract owned by it in Edison Township (Edison), appeals from the Law Division's affirmance on a trial de novo of defendant's denial of minor subdivision and site plan approval sought by plaintiff to open up and create a through street on an undersized vacant lot in Woodbridge Township (Woodbridge) adjoining its Edison tract. Plaintiff was and is the contract purchaser of the undersized lot which fronts on a dead-end street in Woodbridge. Plaintiff proposed to utilize the lot as a roadway inlet and outlet to channel traffic to and from its planned development in Edison into Woodbridge.

In 1995, the Edison Planning Board granted approval to plaintiff to develop its forty-five acre tract provided that the existing access to the tract from U.S. Route 1 not be extended through roads to be constructed in the proposed development into existing Edison Streets. No Edison street was to be used as a second access point in or out of the development other than the Route 1 access point and the interior roads to be built in the proposed development were designated by the Edison Municipal Council as dead-end streets. As a result, the Edison Planning Board approval was conditioned on plaintiff constructing a secondary access to the forty-five acre tract through the adjoining Woodbridge lot thereby opening up what theretofore had been a dead-end Woodbridge street.

At that point in time, Woodbridge commenced an action in lieu of prerogative writs against both plaintiff and the Edison Planning Board seeking to overturn the approval granted to plaintiff. Plaintiff filed a similar complaint seeking a judicial grant of the approvals it needed to open up the undeveloped lot as a through street from its proposed development into the Woodbridge dead-end street. The cases were consolidated and plaintiff was directed to apply "to the appropriate Board of Woodbridge Township for [such] approvals as may be required under the Municipal Land Use Law for its proposed roadway connection from its proposed single-family development in Edison to South Oak Avenue [the dead-end street] in Woodbridge Township."

Formal application before defendant was then made by plaintiff, hearings were held, and documentary evidence and testimony, pro and con, was presented. On November 13, 1996, defendant formally denied plaintiff's application by unanimous vote finding that Woodbridge never envisioned that the subject lot be used as a right-of-way for the transformation of the dead-end street, South Oak Avenue, into a significant thoroughfare; that the police and fire departments had identified potential adverse impacts; that the character of the neighborhood and the property values of neighboring properties would be negatively affected; and, that the construction of the cut-through roadway designed to service the eighty-two new homes to be built in Edison provided no benefit to Woodbridge. Pertinent excerpts from defendant's resolution follow:

15. The applicant is proposing to subdivide forty-five (45) acres of land, almost entirely located within the Township of Edison, in order to create eighty-two (82) single-family dwelling building lots and two (2) other lots. The property lies parallel to U.S. Route #1 northbound, and adjoins the PSE&SG property to the north and the Woodbridge Township boundary line to the east. The portion of the subdivision lying within Woodbridge Township consists of Lot 6A in Block 341-A, a wedge shaped 4,191 sq. ft. parcel that maintains frontage along South Oak Avenue in Fords.

16. The applicant is also proposing a roadway system in order to service the development project with several short interior roads. The main street will intersect with U.S. Route #1 northbound, slightly west of Parsonage Road, traverse the development, and terminate at an intersection with South Oak Avenue.

17. The issue critical to Woodbridge Township residents is that the applicant further proposes to use a 50' wide, 40' long strip of Lot 6A as road right-of-way, in order to connect the eighty-two (82) dwelling units located entirely within Edison Township, through this lot to South Oak Avenue in the Fords section of Woodbridge Township. The remaining 654 sq. ft. of land to the north of the road is to be annexed to building Lot 84 in Edison. The remaining 1,252 sq. ft. to the south is to be deeded to Lot 1 in Edison.

18. The proposed access to the site is a driveway on U.S. Route #1 and, at the other end, South Oak Avenue in Fords. The area of South Oak Avenue is zoned R-6 Single-Family Residential.

19. The entire project involves the construction of eight-two (82) single-family homes; two (2) common area lots; and, detention basins located entirely within the Township of Edison. This project was previously approved by the Edison Township Planning Board on August 3, 1995, by a six (6) to two (2) vote. The South Oak Street access is critical to the project and was part of the "deal" struck by the applicant struck [sic] with Edison residents originally opposed to the project.

20. The applicant agreed to a deed restriction in the application before the Edison Township Planning Board, which essentially eliminated access by any other interior roads located within the site in Edison Township. Additionally, the Municipal Council of the Township of Edison adopted Ordinance O.899-95, which amended Chapter 82 - Article XVIII - Section 82-47, designating Harley Road, Harmon Road, Nora Road and Harris Road as "dead-end streets". [sic] This effectively eliminated any other access to or from the site within Edison, other than U.S. Route #1.

21. The applicant chose to strike a deal with Edison Township residents without the direct participation, intervention or concerns of the interests of Woodbridge Township residents, and sought approval of the proposed subdivision through Lot 6A in block 341-A, a wedge shaped 4,191 sq. ft. parcel which maintains frontage on South Oak Avenue in Fords. All of the impact of the eighty-two (82) home subdivision/development in Edison ...

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