Zoning Board Responsibilities

The New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law gives a municipal Zoning Board some important responsibilities; it is the quasi-judicial body that must decide whether a request to “break the local zoning rules” provides warranted relief for the applicant while not harming the neighborhood.

Hear Appeals of Decisions Made by the Administrative Officer

Whenever a party believes that the administrative officer has made a mistake in enforcing the zoning ordinance, they may appeal the issue to the zoning board of adjustment.

Interpret the Zoning Ordinance and Zoning Map

The zoning board is empowered to hear and decide requests for interpretation of the zoning ordinance or map.

Hear Requests for “c” Variances

The zoning board may approve c (1) variances, which are related to the unusual shape, topography or physical features on a lot and are often referred to as hardship variances. The zoning board may also grant c (2) variances, when it believes that the purposes of the Municipal Land Use Law would be advances by the proposed deviation from the strict standards of the zoning ordinance.

Generally, the zoning board of adjustment will be reviewing these types of variance with regard to one- and two-family dwellings. The zoning board only hears site plan and subdivision applications when a “d” variance is required. Such an application may include requests for both “c” and “d” variances.

Hear Requests for “d” Variances

The zoning board of adjustment is the body that is authorized to grant variances for:

  • The use or principal structure in a district regulated against such use or building.
  • An expansion of a nonconforming use.
  • Deviation from the standards for a conditional use.
  • An increase in the permitted floor area.
  • An increase in permitted density.
  • The height of a principal structure that exceeds by 10 feet or 10% the height permitted in the district for a principal structure.

Approval of a “d” variance requires five “yes” votes.

Hear Applications for Site Plan or Subdivision Approval When “d” Variances Are Required.

In most cases, the planning board hears applications for site plan and subdivision approval. If the application requires a “d” variance, the zoning board of adjustment will hear the entire application.

Prepare an Annual Report

At least once a year the zoning board must review its decisions and prepare a report to the governing body. In this report, the board should make recommendations for changes to the zoning ordinance.

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