New Jersey Courts: Land Use Decision

A notable unreported land use decision came down from the New Jersey Courts this week.  In Signature Communities v. Red Bank ZBA, the Appellate Division rejected an appeal by the owners of Red Bank’s Colony House, who had sued in response to the Board’s refusal to grant a variance for their property, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-70(d).  The 1960s apartment building at issue was nonconforming to a number of Red Bank’s current requirements for the site, and when the owners sought approval for a plan to renovate the building, and to shuffle around its bedroom arrangements, they hit a snag with their pre-existing shortage of parking spaces per unit.  The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s decision:

In our judgment, the Board’s rejection of plaintiff’s assertions was not arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable.  The record shows that the renovated structure will have nineteen one-bedroom units and forty-nine two-bedroom units.  As we have explained, the [Residential Site Improvement Standards] requires 132 parking spaces for such a building.  The Board reasonably found that the number of parking spaces proposed by plaintiff was substantially deficient when measured against the number required by RSIS.

It’s interesting that neither the Red Bank ZBA nor the Appellate Division appears to have given much weight to Signature Communities’ arguments that (1) the neighborhood’s inherent walkability and (2) its access to public transportation should mitigate against the state’s generic parking-space criteria.  I’m not familiar with the specifics of this case, or with the Red Bank waterfront, but this concerns me.  In the effort to push back against sprawl, these are important caveats, and the rigid application of parking-space requirements can kill important development projects that could otherwise be the building blocks of good urban communities.