hot-topic1In a case that hinged on arcane voting rules about planning boards that do double duty as zoning boards, the state Appellate Division has rejected a Sea Bright beach club’s bid to expand its catering business.

The appeals court last Friday overturned a Superior Court ruling that would have allowed the Surfrider Beach Club to add to banquet facilities that had been approved in 1992.

The borough zoning board denied the expansion plan in 2005 over concerns about noise and other disruptions, and the owner, D. Lobi Enterprises, sued.

After a trial in Freehold, the superior court found that the planning board’s rejection of the proposal was arbitrary and capricious and allowed the expansion.

The appeal was brought not by the borough, but by a David DiSio, a nearby property owner and — just to confuse things — a planning board member, but one who had recused himself from the 2005 hearings.

DiSio’s appeal hinged in part on the makeup of the zoning board and the minimum number of votes required under state law when a property owner seeks what’s known as a ‘d,’ or use variance (as opposed to a ‘c’ variance, which deals with issues of bulk).

In its ruling, the appeals court found that

The increased  intensity of use proposed by the applicant may reasonably be expected to exacerbate the existing problems in the neighborhood.  We conclude that the Board’s decision was supported by the record, and we must defer to its knowledge of the area and local conditions.

Here’s the full decision: a5718-07