On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, L-3725-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Lintner, Graves and Alvarez.
After the Howell Township Board of Adjustment (Board) denied their application for a use variance to operate "a dog obedience training facility," plaintiffs Jeffrey Madole and Lydia Iavarone filed a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs alleging the Board's decision "was arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." Following a bench trial, the court entered an order on February 28, 2007, granting the variance and imposing conditions. On appeal, intervenors Robert Schmidt and Judy Schmidt contend the Board's decision was sound, and the trial court erred by substituting its judgment for that of the Board. Because we agree the Board's decision should have been sustained, we reverse the order entered by the trial court.
Plaintiffs reside at 319 Oak Glen Road in Howell Township, Monmouth County, on a 3.67-acre lot (the property), which is owned by Lydia Iavarone. The property is designated as lot 40 in block 41 on the tax maps, and it is located within an ARE-6 (Agricultural Rural Estate) Zoning District, which requires a minimum lot area of six acres. The purpose and permitted land uses in the ARE-6 zone are as follows:
§ 188-69. Agricultural Rural Estate Zones (ARE-1, ARE-2, ARE-3, ARE-6).
A. Purpose. The purpose of the ARE-1, ARE-2, ARE-3 and ARE-6 Zones is to minimize the impacts of development in areas located outside of the centers identified in the Township's Master Plan. The goals include preservation of rural and agricultural uses and preservation of rural character. Many areas include significant environmental constraints, including wetlands, floodplains, rare and endangered species habitats, aquifer recharge areas and high quality watersheds.
(a) Agricultural and horticulture.
(b) Single-family residences.
(c) Municipal buildings and other public purpose buildings owned by the Township, as well as quasi-public uses limited to fire stations and first-aid buildings.
(d) Community residences for the developmentally disabled and community shelters for victims of domestic violence that ...