The Redeveloper

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Zoning Standards: The Tough Get Tougher

May 5, 2010 | No Comments
Posted by Marc Policastro

New Jersey’s zoning laws should promote revitalized use of properties which have been neglected, or fallen into nonuse status.  Right?  Not so fast. A recently decided New Jersey Appellate Division case further erodes the notion that redevelopment, or “brownfield” cases should enjoy any type of relaxation in the application of legal standards to be applied in zoning decisions.  In Saadala v. East Brunswick Zoning Board of Adjustment, A-4999-08, a New Jersey appellate court determined that under the facts of that case, a “substantial change” was proposed for the redevelopment of a 7-Eleven and mini mart.  Consequently, the court refused to apply a relaxed legal standard and instead required application of the traditional Medici which is implemented in traditional use variance cases.  In the Saadala case, a Shell gas station and 7-Eleven had been in operation as a “preexisting use” for many years.  Over time, the gas station use component had ceased.  The redevelopment project called for a larger gas station, with other basic improvements to qualify it as a “mini mart”.  The court emphasized that a substantial change in a use required strict application of the Medici standard, even where the redevelopment plan contemplates uses that had harmoniously coexisted for years.  Returning brownfield sites — abandoned, underutilized properties — to viable, productive projects, just became more difficult.
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