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Gallo v. Mayor and Township Council of Lawrence Township

February 10, 2000


Before Judges King, P.G. Levy and Carchman.

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


Argued January 5, 2000

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

The 1995 amendments to the protest provisions of the Municipal Land Use Law, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-62.1 and -63, provide for notice of zoning classification and boundary changes to those property owners located within two hundred feet of the boundaries of the district subject to the changes. The same amendments, however, exempt from its notice provisions "classification or boundary changes recommended in a periodic general reexamination of the master plan by the planning board pursuant to Section 76 of P.L. 1975, c. 291 (C.40:55D-89)." This appeal requires us to determine whether proposed zoning changes creating a higher density residential zone located adjacent to a landowner's property and recommended pursuant to the statutorily mandated six-year review of a municipal master plan, N.J.S.A. 40:55D-89, obligates a municipality to provide personal notice to those landowners who are located within two hundred feet of the boundaries of such change. Judge Feinberg, in the Law Division, concluded that the exemption provision of the statute applied, and no personal notice was required. She also rejected additional arguments regarding notice of other zoning changes located throughout the municipality as well as an allegation of spot zoning. We agree and affirm.


In 1992, defendant Lawrence Township Planning Board (the Planning Board) began a reexamination of its 1987 master plan as is required at least every six years by N.J.S.A. 40:55D-89. Pursuant to the reexamination, the Planning Board gave public notice and proceeded to conduct twenty-four "work" meetings spanning a period from October 1992 and continuing through May 1995. Following the conclusion of its working sessions, in June 1995, the Planning Board on notice to the public held public hearings on the adoption of the master plan, and on June 14, 1995, the revised master plan was adopted. The new master plan proposed five zones of residential housing (R-1 through R-5), and identified the particular type of housing and the areas to which each zone applied.

With respect to R-2, the zone relevant here, the master plan stated in pertinent part:

The uses proposed for the Residential 2 land use classification are single family detached housing, agriculture, and open space. Density for this category is proposed within a range of one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half (1.5 to 2.5) units per acre. The land areas proposed for this classification include the Village of Lawrenceville and almost all of the area west of the Village to Federal City Road and south of the Village to I-95. . . . Any future residential subdivisions should be compatible with the character of adjacent development, particularly as to the actual area and width of pre-existing lots.

Prior to the approval of the new master plan, an R-1.5 zone existed, which had a minimum lot size of approximately 30,000 square feet. The newly approved master plan eliminated the R-1.5 classification.

Subsequent to the adoption of the new master plan, the Planning Board created a subcommittee to propose an ordinance necessary to implement the new master plan. During the remainder of 1995, 1996 and 1997, various ordinance provisions were drafted and hearings were held periodically seeking public comment and reaction. Finally, in the summer of 1997, a comprehensive draft of a land development ordinance was forwarded to defendant Lawrence Township Mayor and Township Council (Township Council). The Township Council held six public hearings on the proposed ordinance, at which time additional revisions were made to the draft of the ordinance.

In July 1997, a developer filed an "Application for Subdivision Plan Review" of his property (the Development Parcel). The developer indicated in his application that this land was zoned as R-2A, although this new R-2A sub-zone had not yet been adopted. These facts were memorialized in a memo written by the Planning Board's land consultants after reviewing the developer's proposal:

Undersized Lot Variances. The proposed development appears to be designed using the proposed R-2A zoning district regulations rather than the existing R-1.5 regulations. For the plan to proceed now, the applicant would need to obtain undersized lot variances for all of the lots except lots 14 and 17 (with existing houses) and the detention basin lot.

At the November 25, 1997 planning meeting of the Township Council, the Council discussed the issue of the classifications for the area encompassing the Development Parcel and whether it should be zoned for 22,500 or 30,000 feet. The Township Council then concurred in a proposal to create three R-2 sub-zones all with differing densities (R-2A = 30,000; R-2B = 22,500; R-2C = 15,000). *fn1 Thereafter, at the request of the developer, the Planning Board ultimately recommended to ...

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