The use of part of a residence or an accessory structure on residential property to operate a business (e.g., home occupation or home-based business) remains an economical way for some individuals to earn a living. Tensions present themselves, however, when the use of residentially zoned property for a business purpose is incompatible with the character of the surrounding community. Often, decisions may depend upon what the applicable zoning ordinance does and does not allow in terms of home occupations in particular zones, and the manner in which certain businesses might be operated to determine compatibility.
A recent New Jersey case involves a proposed conversion of a three-bay garage located on property primarily used for a single family dwelling in a residential district, for use as an automobile repair facility for no more than five vehicles per day, no signage placed on the property signifying the existence of the use, and with the property owner/resident as the sole employee of the operation.
In upholding the denial of a variance request by the zoning board of adjustment to allow the plaintiff to operate an automobile repair facility on his property that contains a two-story single-family dwelling, a three-bay garage, a single story masonry garage, two masonry sheds, and one wooden shed, the Court found that the board did not abuse its discretion when it considered testimony of sustained growth in residences in the area, pending applications from adjacent residences, and the intent set forth in the master plan to continue the residential character of the area. Although four of the seven board members voted in favor of granting the variance, the law in New Jersey requires a supermajority vote, or five votes, in order for the variance to be approved.
Melito v. Zoning Bd. of Adjustment for the Tp. of Marlboro, 2007 WL 4119030 (N.J. Super. A.D. 11/21/2007).