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Appellate Court Decision to Benefit Upper Property Owners

Court Gavel Image (2020) - USE THIS ONE

By Camille Sailer

TRENTON – Cape May County Superior Court handed down its decision July 23, regarding an appeal by Ralph Holt and Deanna Holt about a variance to expand a non-conforming use of property they own, in Marmora.
The information contained in this article was taken from the ruling by the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey (https://bit.ly/314mrd5).
Per the court’s explanation, the variance would allow the Holts use of the second floor of their Marmora property, a retail/office/residential building for 20 seats, doing business as Ralph’s Bagel and Deli Shop, located on the first floor, if they demonstrated adequate additional parking.
The variance required the Holts to have a lease agreement, to be approved by the Upper Township Zoning Board solicitor, with the neighboring U.S. post office or St. Maximillian Kolbe Parish for a minimum of 23 additional parking spaces for the Holts’ extra customers.
Before obtaining the lease for the additional parking, Paul Dietrich, engineer, Upper Township, advised the Holts by email that he learned they were planning to host a wellness event at their property and cautioned them not to proceed using the second floor because of the parking issue.
The Holts disregarded Dietrich’s warning and proceeded with the event, which resulted in a complaint by Wayne Jack, a neighboring property owner, in November 2016.
Subsequently, the monsignor of the parish sent the Zoning Board a memo, stating the Holts could use the parish’s parking lot when not in use. In response, Dietrich sent Ralph Holt a letter, in February 2017, stating that the parking issue was resolved as a result of the parish letter and they could use their second floor as they wanted.
The Holts’ situation was complicated when Dietrich sent them a letter, in March 2017, rescinding his approval, admitting his earlier approval was sent prematurely because the Zoning Board solicitor didn’t conduct a final legal review, as required. Dietrich’s letter advised Ralph Holt he could appeal the decision to the Zoning Board within 20 days or apply to the Zoning Board for an amended site plan approval.
Also, in March 2017, Ralph Holt was found guilty in the matter of Jack’s complaint, in Wildwood Crest Municipal Court. Holt did not appeal the municipal court conviction or Dietrich’s letter of non-compliance to the Zoning Board.
The Holts then decided to represent themselves and filed a complaint against Upper Township’s Zoning Board, Dietrich, and the board’s solicitor for rejecting the parking lease with the parish as arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable.
Their complaint was dismissed by the court, in November 2017, but the court decision said the Holts could appeal to Upper Township’s Zoning Board. Upper Township then sought to have the Holts barred from any further appeal to the Zoning Board.
However, the court, in its July 23 decision, said the Holts retained the right of appeal since the board was the proper arbiter of what was adequate parking for the use variance in question.
To contact Camille Sailer, email csailer@cmcherald.com.

Spout Off

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