What Deference Does a Planning Board Owe a Neighboring Municipality?

The Appellate Court recently decided (in an unpublished opinion) the question of what level of deference, if any, a planning board must give neighboring municipalities. In 514 Millburn Avenue, LLC v. Planning Board of the Township of Millburn and Restaurant Concept Consultants, LLC and Investors Holding Fund, LLC, 514 Millburn Avenue appealed from an Order dismissing their complaint in lieu of prerogative writs against the Township of Millburn Planning Board.

The Facts of the Case 

Defendant Restaurant Concept Consultants, LLC had previously applied to the Board for conditional approval, including certain waivers and variances to convert a fast food establishment into a restaurant/bar. This request was opposed by petitioner and certain members of the public, including residents from Springfield, a municipality adjacent to the proposed development. 514 Millburn Avenue own and operate their own restaurant close to the proposed redevelopment and the project did straddle the boundary line between the two government entities. Petitioners argued that Restaurant Concept Consultants, LLC was therefore required to have obtained separate approval from Springfield Township.

Millburn approved the application and declined to hear the application relating to Springfield ordinances.  It was noted, however, that the Planning Board “considered the proposed development’s impact on the neighborhoods in adjacent Springfield.”  The trial court dismissed petitioner’s action in lieu of prerogative writ.

Appellate Arguments

The Petitioner made the following arguments in their appeal:

  1. The Trial Court should have required zoning approval by Springfield pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:55D-22(b), especially as 60% of the parking for the project was located within Springfield;
  2. The Planning Board failed to consider that Springfield’s zoning limitation effect and govern a “significant portion of the development site.”
  3. Alternatively, the trial court should have directed the Defendant applicant to proceed with appropriate zoning applications before Springfield.

The Appellate Decision

The Appellate Division denied Petitioner’s requests for relief and affirmed the trial court judge. The Appellate Court noted that it deferred to the Planning Board’s credibility determinations and further held that the decision was neither arbitrary nor capricious. The Appellate Court further noted that while planning boards should consider the impact of a development application on neighboring municipalities, “the local board need not abdicate its own zoning ordinances and master plan.” The Planning Board of Millburn noted in its decision that it considered such impacts, but has no “obligation to impose Springfield’s zoning ordinances and master plan within its own municipal border.”  However, the Appellate Court did note that it was possible this specific application may ultimately require approval from Springfield.

Accordingly, the holding is that the Planning Board did not err but regarding 514 Millburn Avenue LLC, there may be requirements remaining in Springfield given that portions of the redevelopment will exist within the boundaries of Springfield Township.

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