At its February 26, 2018 township meeting, the committee unanimously adopted an unusual resolution, 2018-40, that appeared on the agenda from nowhere.
The subject of the resolution was the “placement” of a trailer on one particular property. This issue was never mentioned at a prior meeting. It was barely discussed at the February 26 meeting. The committee didn’t explain why the resolution was drafted. Members made very few comments. It was hustled through.
Resolution 2018-40 says that a request was made to place a temporary mobile home trailer on Block 2002, Lot 11.01, “as the Hall Family renovate[s] an existing residence on the property.” Though the resolution doesn’t give the street address, that’s the old Brick property on Moores Meadow Road. The resolution also says that placement of the trailer would eliminate hardship issues and that the construction official (Thomas Boyd) has no objections.
Besides its ‘out of the blue’ origins, the resolution itself was very strange.
1. It’s language was extremely vague. Most resolutions are very clear, as they should be. But Resolution 2018-40, allows “the placement of a trailer” What does that mean? Can the trailer be used in any way? Can it be lived in? Can it just be “placed” on the property?
2. The Resolution also doesn’t mention Tabernacle’s zoning code even though the code directly addresses trailers and this situation in three separate sections. Chapter 10-2.1 expressly prohibits using a trailer as a dwelling or sleeping place unless it’s parked at a licensed trailer park. Chapter 17-17c allows one (1) trailer to be stored on a property but prohibits using it for “…temporary or permanent residential purposes. Chapter 17-47B also prohibits residential use of a trailer.
3. If the “placement” of the Hall trailer involved a “…temporary or permanent residential purpose” or “a dwelling or sleeping place” or any other use that’s prohibited by the zoning code, then a use variance is required. Anyone with basic experience on a planning or zoning board knows this. The variance is a requirement of the New Jersey Municipal Land Use law.
Tabernacle’s Land Development Board (LDB) is a combined planning and zoning board. All of our committee members, except, perhaps, Ms. Brown, have served on the LDB for many years. So has Administrator Doug Cramer. Deputy Mayor Stephen Lee, IV and Administrator Doug Cramer currently serve on the LDB. Mr. Lange, the committee’s attorney, has been a zoning board attorney for years, and still is in Shamong Township. Mr. Boyd, our construction official, is responsible to enforce our zoning code.
All these people know what a use variance is and know that only the LDB can approve it. Why didn’t any of them speak up?
4. The Municipal Land Use Law makes the administration of land use the job of the LDB, not the committee. The committee doesn’t have the authority to handle individual zoning cases. It can amend the zoning code that applies to the entire township. But it can’t usurp the responsibility of the Tabernacle LDB to administer the zoning code on a case-by-case basis. Why did the committee get involved in this one property?
After submitting multiple OPRA requests over several months, I finally got a copy of the “request” that the resolution refers to. It answered a lot of questions.
The document is a February 6, 2018 letter from John and Krystal Gerber Hall to Tabernacle Township, the zoning board and the construction official. It says that they want to enroll their child in the Tabernacle school system as quickly as possible and want to live in the travel trailer on their newly acquired property while they renovate the existing residence.
When I understood what the committee did, I filed a lawsuit asking that it rescind its illegal resolution and require the Hall family to obtain a use variance. That’s the process that every other property owner has to follow.
The LDB has established procedures set by the state Municipal Land Use Law and township code. It’s the forum to review all variance requests, consider public comment on them and reach a reasoned public decision. There was no good purpose to circumvent these established procedures. Nor was this circumvention a legal option.
Mr. Hall submitted a use variance application to the LDB on August 24, 2018.
The committee rescinded Resolution 2018-40 at its August 27, 2018 township meeting. They rescinded it after they returned from Executive Session; and that’s why it’s not on the video.