Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 18, 2018

NJ Appeals Court Upholds Board’s Decision to Grant Variance Application

Esco Products, Inc. purchased property in the Township of Jefferson to manufacture custom optics for military, automotive, medical, and communications customers. The existing building on the property operated as an office, warehouse, and storage facility for a company that distributed and installed office furniture and equipment. Esco proposed no physical changes to the existing building, driveways, or parking lot and proposed no additional construction on the property. Esco required two variances for its proposed use: a use variance, as the property was located in the O Zone; and a “c” variance, since the amount of land between the existing building and the nearest residential boundary line did not meet the required length for a planted buffer in accordance with the Township’s ordinance. The Board of Adjustment of the Township of Jefferson granted Esco’s variance requests subject to specific conditions. Plaintiffs Robert and Sandra Fisher, neighboring property owners, appealed this decision, and the Law Division affirmed the Board’s approval of Esco’s variance applications.

On appeal, the court rejected plaintiffs’ contention that the Board’s approval of a use variance was inconsistent with the Township’s master plan, zone plan, and zoning ordinance. The Law Division judge found the Board’s resolution reconciled the master plan with Esco’s planned use, since the proposed use was similar to the previous office and storage use on the property. The judge further found that the high-tech fabrication and manufacturing operations by Esco were similar to activities that would take place in scientific, engineering or research laboratories, which were permitted in the O Zone. Accordingly, the court affirmed the holding of the Law Division, finding there was substantial credible evidence to support the Board’s findings.

Fisher v. Board of Adjustment of the Township of Jefferson and Esco Products, Inc. 2018 WL 482072 (NJ App. 1/18/2018)

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