Villari v. Zoning Bd. of Adjustment of Deptford

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtSKILLMAN
Citation649 A.2d 98,277 N.J.Super. 130
Decision Date15 November 1994
PartiesJoseph VILLARI and SJ Villari Livestock, Plaintiffs-Respondents, v. The ZONING BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT OF DEPTFORD and Deptford Township, Defendants-Appellants.

Page 130

277 N.J.Super. 130
649 A.2d 98
Joseph VILLARI and SJ Villari Livestock, Plaintiffs-Respondents,
Township, Defendants-Appellants.
Superior Court of New Jersey,
Appellate Division.
Argued Oct. 19, 1994.
Decided Nov. 15, 1994.

[649 A.2d 99]

Page 132

Wayne C. Streitz, Pitman, for appellants (Ware, Streitz and Thompson, attorneys; Mr. Streitz, on the brief).

Bruce C. Hasbrouck, Woodbury, for respondents (Hasbrouck & Uliase, attorneys; Mr. Hasbrouck, on the brief).


The opinion of the court was delivered by


Plaintiffs are the owners of twenty acres of land in Deptford Township, Gloucester County, in an area presently zoned residential. Although some agricultural uses are permitted conditional uses in this zone, the "keeping of pigs" is only permitted on lots of fifty acres or more. 1 Thus, the raising of pigs is not a permitted use on plaintiffs' property.

Plaintiffs applied to the Deptford zoning officer for a permit to repair and reconstruct a fence for the purpose of holding pigs. Plaintiff Joseph Villari contended that members of his family had used the property for pig farming since 1929 or 1930, thereby creating a preexisting nonconforming use when the zoning was changed to prohibit this use, 2 and that he had not abandoned the use or the structures required for the use including the fence.

After the zoning officer denied plaintiffs' permit application, they filed an appeal with the Township of Deptford Board of

Page 133

Adjustment (the Board). At the hearing, Villari testified that pig farming had been discontinued on the property for a period of from seven to ten years, during which time it had been used for growing corn and alfalfa, and that the fence formerly used to enclose the pigs had deteriorated. However, Villari asserted that plaintiffs had always intended to resume pig farming on the property. He also indicated that plaintiffs had in fact resumed pig farming approximately eighteen months to two years before the hearing. Villari said that there were approximately 400 pigs on the property at the present time and that this number would increase to approximately 750 if pig farming were held to be a valid nonconforming use and plaintiffs were granted a permit to reconstruct the fence. Villari further indicated that there had been as many as 1,000 pigs on the property in the past. A substantial number of residents of adjoining properties testified in opposition to plaintiffs' application, most of whom indicated that there had been no pig farming on the property for at least fifteen years.

Based on this record, the Board found that "there were no pigs or hogs 3 being raised on the premises for a period of at least seven years and probably much longer" and that "the deteriorated fence and enclosed area in question were not maintained in any manner relating to the raising of hogs or pigs during this period of time." The Board further found that "the applicant's failure to act in any way to maintain the area in question carried a significant implication that the applicant abandoned his interest in the raising of pigs and hogs in the area in question." Consequently, the Board concluded that plaintiffs had "abandoned the non-conforming

Page 134

use and structure in question." [649 A.2d 100] Accordingly, the Board affirmed the zoning officer's denial of plaintiffs' permit application.

Plaintiffs filed this action in lieu of prerogative writs, contending that the Board's decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record and was therefore arbitrary and capricious. Plaintiffs also contended that the zoning of his property and the Board's decision violated the "Right to Farm Act," N.J.S.A. 4:1C-1 to 10.

The trial court reversed the Board's decision, finding that plaintiffs "expressed no intention to abandon" pig farming on their property and "neither performed an act or failure to act which carries a sufficient implication" of an intent to abandon. The court also expressed the view that "where property has merely remained idle and there have [been] no significant changes made ... which would be indicative of an intent to abandon the non-conforming use, such suspension of use does not extinguish the non-conforming use." Since the trial court concluded that plaintiffs had a preexisting nonconforming use, it did not address plaintiffs' alternative argument that the Right to Farm Act overrides municipal zoning which prohibits agricultural activities including the raising of livestock. The Board and Deptford Township appeal from the judgment reversing the Board's decision.

We are satisfied that there is sufficient credible evidence in the record to support the Board's finding that plaintiffs abandoned the use of the property for raising pigs. We also conclude that the Right to Farm Act does not override municipal zoning and land use regulation. 4 Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and reinstate the Board's decision denying plaintiffs' permit application.

Page 135


The continuation of nonconforming uses and structures is authorized by N.J.S.A. 40:55D-68, which provides that "[a]ny nonconforming use or structure existing at the time of the passage of an ordinance may be continued upon the lot or in the structure so occupied and any such structure may be restored or repaired in the event of a partial destruction thereof." However, a property owner has the burden of establishing the existence of a nonconforming use or structure, ibid.; Weber v. Pieretti, 72 N.J.Super. 184, 195, 178 A.2d 92 (Ch.Div.), aff'd o.b., 77 N.J.Super. 423, 186 A.2d 702 (App.Div.1962), certif. denied, 39 N.J. 236, 188 A.2d 177 (1963), and the statutory authorization for continuing such uses is construed restrictively. See, e.g., Avalon Home & Land Owners Ass'n v. Borough of Avalon, 111 N.J. 205, 209-12, 543 A.2d 950 (1988); Town of Belleville v. Parrillo's, Inc., 83 N.J. 309, 315-18, 416 A.2d 388 (1980); Grundlehner v. Dangler, 29 N.J. 256, 263-64, 148 A.2d 806 (1959). "Because nonconforming uses are inconsistent with the objectives of uniform zoning, the courts have required that consistent with the property rights of those affected and with substantial justice, they should be reduced to conformity as quickly as is compatible with justice." Town of Belleville v. Parrillo's, supra, 83 N.J. at 315, 416 A.2d 388.

In accordance with this restrictive view, our courts have recognized that the right to continue a nonconforming use may be lost either through abandonment or discontinuance. Ibid.; Camara v. Board of Adjustment of Township of Belleville, 239 N.J.Super. 51, 56, 570 A.2d 1012 (App.Div.1990). The traditional view is that "abandonment of a nonconforming use or structure requires 'the concurrence of two factors: one, an intention...

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 cases
  • Allocco and Luccarelli v. Township of Holmdel
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court
    • January 30, 1997
    ...a conforming use and the duration can be unlimited, running with the land. But see, Villari v. Zoning Bd. of Adjustment of Deptford, 277 N.J.Super. 130, 649 A.2d 98 Nevertheless, it cannot be argued that one who receives the functional equivalent of a permitted use through variance relief i......
  • R.I. Grows LLC v. Booth, WC-2022-0057
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Rhode Island
    • August 11, 2022 Farm Act with New Jersey's Right to Farm Act (the New Jersey Act) is instructive. In Villari v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of Deptford, 649 A.2d 98 (N.J.Super.Ct.App.Div. 1994), the New Jersey Superior Court held that an earlier version of the New Jersey Act, which did "not even refer to......
  • State v. Miller
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • November 15, 1994
    ...We have addressed the merits of defendant's petition to avoid the contention that the 1990 endeavor to appeal was the equivalent[649 A.2d 98] of a timely petition for post-conviction relief, and to "demonstrat[e] that reliance on the procedural bar has caused no injustice." See State of New......
  • McDowell, Inc. v. Township of Wall, A-2888-98T2
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • August 25, 2000 abandon the use) but also through cessation of the prior nonconforming use. See Villari v. Zoning Bd. of Adj. of Deptford, 277 N.J. Super. 130, 135 (App. Div. 1994) (citing Camara v. Board of Adj. of Tp. of Belleville, 239 N.J. Super. 51, 56-57 (App. Div. 1990)). See generally 12 Powell ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT