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Zoning and Land Use Law
Zoning and Land Use Law encompass many factual circumstances and state and municipal regulations pertaining to the development and use of real estate. Rabner Baumgart Ben-Asher & Nirenberg has long concentrated in zoning and land use law. We have represented numerous land development applicants including developers and builders, businesses, institutional and inherently beneficial uses, and residential property owners.
Land development applications in New Jersey typically are made to either the municipal Planning Board or municipal Zoning Board of Adjustment. When the application involves a subdivision, site plan or conditional use, the application usually comes before the Planning Board. The Planning Board also has jurisdiction over related bulk or dimensional variances including setback variances, coverage variances, and parking variances. These variances can be granted either because the physical characteristics of the land cause an “undue hardship” or because the variance promotes one or more purposes of zoning under New Jersey land use law.
When the application involves a major variance such as a “use variance,” the application comes before the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which hears:
Use variances to allow a particular land use or structure that is not permitted in the district;
Variances to expand legal non-conforming uses that are no longer permitted under the current zoning regulations but nonetheless require extension or modernization;
Conditional use variances to allow land uses that are permitted in the district but that deviate from one or more prescribed specifications;
Floor area ratio variances to increase the percentage of usable floor area permitted in the zone;
Density variances to increase the residential density permitted in the zone; and
Height variances to exceed the height in feet or stories permitted in the zone.
These variances can be granted when they promote one or more purposes of zoning under New Jersey land use law, usually as established through expert testimony and legal argument. When the application is before the Zoning Board of Adjustment because of one of these variances, the Board of Adjustment will also hear any associated subdivision, site plan, or conditional use applications, as well as any associated bulk or dimensional variances.
There are other circumstances when a particular zoning or land use issue will come before either the Planning Board for review or approval or the Zoning Board of Adjustment for decision. For example, the Planning Board reviews proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance, and the Zoning Board of Adjustment decides appeals of administrative action under the zoning ordinance.
For the most part, land development applications involve the coordinated effort of the applicant, an attorney, an architect, a civil engineer, a professional planner, and sometimes other experts in areas such as traffic engineering, land title, historic preservation and any particular issue that requires special expertise. All of these expert witnesses work with detailed state legislation and codes as well as county and municipal regulations, and have special experience in testifying before municipal land use agencies.
Our firm offers legal guidance through the entire land development application process and enjoys the unique challenges of each application. We have assisted numerous residential developers and builders, banks, supermarkets, restaurants, retailers, physicians, fitness professionals, houses of worship, hospitals, senior citizen projects, and residential property owners of one-family, two-family and multi-family dwellings to obtain the particular state, county, and municipal approvals and permits that are required in order to build upon real estate, rehabilitate buildings and structures, and expand the various ways in which real estate can be used in New Jersey.
New Jersey Zoning and Land Use Attorney: