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Commons v. Westwood Zoning Board of Adjustment

New Jersey Supreme Court
410 A.2d 1138 (1980)


Gordon and Helen Commons (plaintiffs) owned a narrow, vacant residential lot with only 30 feet of frontage and 5190 square feet. The Commonses’ predecessors acquired the lot in 1927, before any zoning. Zoning passed in 1947 set minimums at 75 feet frontage and 7500 square feet. Most neighborhood properties did not meet those minimums when adopted. In 1974, the Commonses tried unsuccessfully to sell to an adjacent neighbor. Leo Weingarten (plaintiff) contracted to buy the lot on the condition that he could build a home on it and tried unsuccessfully to buy a 10-foot strip from another neighbor. The parties together requested a variance from the Westwood Zoning Board of Adjustment (the board) (defendant). Instead of the actual proposed house plan, Weingarten submitted a plan for a larger home, to be scaled down to under 20 feet wide to allow the minimum five-foot side yards. The home was comparably sized to 17 other neighboring homes. A realtor testified that the home would not impair neighborhood values or the zoning plan because it would be comparably priced and have sufficient setbacks. Neighbors opposed the variance. The board denied it, finding no hardship and that granting it would substantially impair the purpose of the zoning ordinance. The trial and appellate court affirmed, prompting a further appeal to the state supreme court.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Schreiber, J.)

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