On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Middlesex County, L-4014-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued September 17, 2007
Before Judges Lintner, Graves and Sabatino.
In this land use case, the Old Bridge Zoning Board of Adjustment ("the Board of Adjustment") contends that, in retrospect, it acted outside of its statutory authority when it approved a general development plan ("GDP") for a large tract of land in Old Bridge in 1985, and that the municipality's Planning Board instead has exclusive jurisdiction over that plan and any related land use issues. Specifically, the Board of Adjustment appeals an order of the Law Division dated October 30, 2006, which determined that the Board of Adjustment did have the lawful power in 1985 to approve the GDP, and that the Board of Adjustment should continue to exercise jurisdiction over any further applications relating to the plan or to the development of the property.
We affirm the Law Division's determination, but modify it to prospectively require that any subsequent site plan applications concerning the property be presented to the Planning Board rather than to the Board of Adjustment, on the condition that the Planning Board, in exercising its jurisdiction, does not nullify any prior approvals issued by the Board of Adjustment.
The property at issue in this appeal is a 140-acre parcel in Old Bridge Township ("the Township") near the Metropark train station. In 1985, Edward J. Rondinelli, a developer, sought approval from the Board of Adjustment for a general development plan for the site. Rondinelli is the predecessor in title to the respondent in the present appeal, Alfieri-Old Bridge Associates, LLC. ("Alfieri"). The GDP application envisioned substantial construction on the property, including, at that time, 1.7 million square feet of office and research space, 250 to 350 hotel rooms, convention space, and 400 dwelling units. The dwellings would be a mix of townhouses, duplexes, four-unit residences and eight-unit residences.
Following two public hearings, the Board of Adjustment on September 5, 1985 approved the GDP, and also granted certain variances. The resolution implementing that decision stated, in pertinent part, as follows:
WHEREAS, Edward J. Rondinelli, hereinafter applicant, has made Application No. 40-85Z to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for approval of a General Development Plan for a Class I Planned Development, as well as variances from the density requirements of the Zoning Ordinance to allow 100% medium density residential including eightplexes, quadruplexes and townhouses, with waiver of staging requirements . . . .
WHEREAS, a public hearing was held on said application by the Board on August 15, 1985 and September 5, 1985; and
WHEREAS, the Board[,] after carefully considering the evidence presented to it by or on behalf of the applicant, by or on behalf of the adjoining property owners and the general public[,] has made the following findings of fact:
1. Applicant proposes a Class I Planned Development encompassing 139 acres with provision for 1.7 million square feet of office, research, and hotel convention space with 400 residential units of medium density.
2. The property is in a PD-1 zone.
3. The applicant has complied with the requirements for a Class I General Development Plan with the exception of densities and staging requirements.
7. The testimony presented taken as a whole has indicated the following justification for the granting of a Variance for the subject premises as well as the Class I PD General Development Plan.
Special reasons exist which warrant the granting of the Variances sought in that the area is too difficult and expensive to develop under strict compliance with the requirements of the Ordinance due to topographical and other ...