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New Jersey Land Use Planning (1-NJ-a)

In New Jersey, municipalities regulate building and construction projects pursuant to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D. The appropriate municipal authority must enforce local land use regulations and may require permits, certificates, or authorizations “as a condition to the erection, construction, alteration, repair, remodeling, conversion, removal, or destruction of any building or structure.” N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-18.


Land Use Planning Process

1-NJ-a.1 – Review Applicable Master Plan Requirements

Before initiating construction, a developer should review any applicable municipal master plan to ensure that that the project meets all municipal requirements.

In New Jersey, municipal planning boards prepare a master plan containing a report on land use and development proposals, with maps, diagrams and text, presenting:

  • A statement of objectives, principles, assumptions, policies and standards upon which proposals for physical, economic, and social development of the municipality are based;
  • A land use plan element that:
    • Takes into account other master plan elements and natural conditions, including, but not necessarily limited to topography, soil conditions, water supply, drainage, flood plain areas, marshes, and woodlands;
    • Shows the existing and proposed location, extent and intensity of development used for residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, recreational, open space, educational and other public and private purposes or combination of purposes and the relationship to existing zoning plans and ordinances;
    • Shows the existing and proposed location of any airports;
    • Includes a statement of the standards of population density and development intensity recommended for the municipality;
    • Shows the existing and proposed location of military facilities
  • A housing plan element;
  • A utility service plan element analyzing the need for and showing future general location of water supply and distribution facilities, drainage and flood control facilities, sewerage and waste treatment, solid waste disposal and provision for other related utilities, and including any storm water management plan;
  • A community facilities plan element;
  • A conservation plan element providing for the preservation, conservation, and utilization of natural resources;
  • An economic plan element considering all aspects of economic development and sustained economic vitality;
  • A historic plan element;
  • Appendices or reports regarding the technical foundation for the master plan;
  • A recycling plan element incorporating the State Recycling Plan;
  • A farmland preservation plan element;
  • A development transfer plan describing the technical details of a development transfer program;
  • An educational facilities plan element;
  • A green buildings and environmental sustainability plan element. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-28.


In addition to complying with municipal master plans, a developer may also need to comply with county regulations. Depending on the location of the project, the project developer may also need to comply with a county master plan. A county master plan contains “the master plan for the physical development of the county in which the municipality is located, with the accompanying maps, plats, charts and descriptive and explanatory matter adopted by the county planning board.” N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-3. Prior to initiating construction, a developer should review any applicable county master plans to ensure that the project meets any county requirements.

Depending on the location of the proposed project, a developer may also need to comply with regional master plans. In New Jersey, one or more municipalities may enter into a joint agreement establishing a regional planning board or regional board of adjustment to administer land use plans on a regional scale. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-77. Regional planning boards must prepare a master plan for the physical, economic and social development of the region. Prior to initiating construction, a developer should review all applicable regional master plans to ensure that the project meets regional requirements. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-84.


1-NJ-a.2 – Contact Appropriate Local Authority

Before initiating construction, the developer should contact the appropriate local authority to ensure that permit applications are submitted to the correct board for review. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-25. Depending on the size, nature, and population density of a particular municipality, the municipality may establish a municipal or regional planning board, and/or zoning board of adjustment. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-25.


1-NJ-a.3 – Application for Development

Before beginning construction, a developer must submit an Application for Development (Application) to the appropriate local authority. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.3.


Regional Planning Board

If the project is located in a jurisdiction with a regional planning board, the developer may elect to submit the Application to the regional planning board for review. The developer does not need to submit an Application to both municipal and regional planning boards. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-84.

Zoning Board of Adjustment

If the project is located in a jurisdiction with a zoning board of adjustment (board of adjustment), then the developer may submit an Application to the zoning board of adjustment for review. The developer does not need to submit the Application to both the municipal/regional planning board and the board of adjustment. New Jersey– N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 40:55D et seq., Municipal Land Use Law.


1-NJ-a.4 to 1-NJ-a.5 – Does the Developer Request Waiver of One or More of the Submission Requirements?

If the applicant (developer) requests that one or more of the submission requirements be waived, then the municipal agency must grant or deny the request within 45 days. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.3.

1-NJ-a.6 to 1-NJ-a.7 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The appropriate local authority reviews the application materials for administrative and technical completeness. Generally, upon reviewing an Application, the appropriate local authority will certify that the Application is complete within 45 days. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.3.

The Application will be deemed complete unless:

  • The Application lacks information indicated on the checklist adopted by local ordinance and provided to the applicant; and
  • The appropriate local authority has notified the applicant, in writing, of the deficiencies of the Application within 45 days. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.3.

The appropriate local authority may require the applicant (developer) to correct any erroneous information or submit additional information necessary for the appropriate local authority to make an informed decision on the Application. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.3. However, the Application will not be incomplete if the applicant (developer) fails to provide the requested additional information. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.3.


1-NJ-a.8 to 1-NJ-a.9 – Does the Proposed Project Cross a Historic Zoning District or Site?

After the appropriate local authority deems the Application is complete or at the time the Application is scheduled for hearing, whichever comes sooner, the appropriate local authority must refer the Application to the historic preservation commission if the project crosses a historic zoning district or historic site. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.110. The historic preservation commission may advise the appropriate local authority on the Application. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.110.

1-NJ-a.10 – Issue Public Notice

Prior to holding a public hearing on the Application, the applicant (developer) or appropriate local authority must give public notice of the hearing at least 10 (ten) days prior to the hearing date. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-11.

Public notice of the hearing must state the date, time and place of the hearing, and the nature of the matters to be considered. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-11.

Depending on the nature and scope of the project, personal service to adjoining municipalities, county planning boards, and the New Jersey Commissioner of Transportation may be required. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-12.

The appropriate local authority must also make any project maps and documents publically available at least 10 (ten) days prior to the date of the public hearing. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10(b).

1-NJ-a.11 – Hold Public Hearing

The appropriate local authority must hold public a hearing on the Application. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10(a).

1-NJ-a.12 – Assess the Application for Approval

The appropriate local authority assesses the Application for approval. The appropriate local authority may not issue a permit for any building or structure in the bed of any street or public drainage way, flood control basin or public area reserved pursuant to the official map established pursuant to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-32. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-34.

Pursuant to New Jersey– N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 40:55D et seq., Municipal Land Use Law, each municipality must prescribe a time period for grant or approval of development applications. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.4.

‘’Zoning Board of Adjustment’’’

If a developer submits an Application with a board of adjustment, then the board of adjustment must make a decision on the application no later than 120 days after receipt of a complete application. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-73.

If the board of adjustment fails to make a decision on the Application within 120 days, then the Application is automatically approved. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-73.

1-NJ-a.13 to 1-NJ-a.15 – Does the Appropriate Local Authority Grant or Deny Approval Within the Prescribed Time Period?

If the appropriate local authority fails to grant or deny the Application , then the Application is deemed approved by default. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.4.

If the application is approved by default, the applicant (developer) must provide notice of the default approval to the appropriate local authority and all those who were entitled to notice of the hearing on the Application. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.4(a). The applicant (developer) must also provide public notice of the default approval by publication in the official newspaper of the municipality or in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.4(b).

1-NJ-a.16 – Affidavit of Proof of Service

Upon issuing notice, the applicant (developer) must file an affidavit of proof of service and publication with the appropriate municipal officer. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10.4(c).

1-NJ-a.17 – Adopt Resolution on the Application

Upon conducting a hearing on the Application, the appropriate local authority must adopt a resolution on the decision outlining the municipal agency’s findings and reasons for either approving or denying the Application. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10(g).

1-NJ-a.18 – Give Notice of Resolution to the Developer

Upon adopting a resolution on the Application, the appropriate local authority must mail a copy of the decision to the applicant (developer) within 10 (ten) days of the date of the decision. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10(h).

1-NJ-a.19 – Issue Public Notice

The applicant (developer) must publish public notice of the decision in the official newspaper of the municipality, or in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-10(i).

1-NJ-a.20 to 1-NJ-a.21 – Does the Appropriate Local Authority Approve the Application for Development?

If the appropriate local authority approves the Application for Development, the developer may proceed with construction in compliance with all local and state land use regulations. If the development proposed by an applicant (developer) requires approval by a governmental agency other than the appropriate local authority, then the appropriate local authority must condition its approval upon the subsequent approval of the appropriate governmental agency. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-22(b).

1-NJ-a.22 – Appeal Decision to Appropriate Local Authority (If Applicable)

Any person aggrieved by a local authority decision approving an Application for Development may appeal the decision to the appropriate local authority within 10 (ten) days of the appropriate local authority issuing its final decision. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-17.

1-NJ-a.23 to 1-NJ-a.27 – Appeal Decision Zoning Board of Adjustment (If Applicable)

Pursuant to N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-70, a board of adjustment has the authority to hear and decide appeals based on an error in the appropriate municipal authority interpreting a land use regulation or requirement.

If the proposed project is located in a jurisdiction with a board of adjustment, any interested party affected by any local authority decision may appeal the decision to the board of adjustment. The interested party must appeal the decision within 20 days of filing a notice of appeal with the local authority stating the specific grounds of such appeal. The board of adjustment must issue a decision on the appeal no later than 120 days after the appeal is taken. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-73.

Upon considering an appeal, the board of adjustment may reverse, affirm, or modify a local authority decision and ultimately grant a variance to the applicable land use regulation or requirement. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-70; N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-74.

If the board of adjustment fails to make a decision within 120 days, then the appeal is automatically decided in favor of the appellant. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-73.

1-NJ-a.28 – Appeal Decision to Public Utilities Board (If Applicable)

If a public utility (developer) is aggrieved by a municipal agency determination regarding a proposed bulk transmission project, the developer may appeal the decision to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) within 35 days of the municipal authority issuing the determination. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-19.

1-NJ-a.29– Give Notice of the Appeal

Prior to hearing the municipal decision on appeal, the BPU must provide notice to the appropriate municipal agency and to all interested parties. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-19.

1-NJ-a.30 to 1-NJ-a.32– Hold Hearing on the Appeal

Following the hearing on the appeal, the BPU will overturn a municipal land use determination upon finding the following:

  • The proposed use is necessary for the service, convenience or welfare of the public;
  • The proposed use of the land in necessary to maintain reliable electric service for the general public;
  • There is no alternative site or sites reasonably available to achieve an equivalent public benefit. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-19.

If the BPU overturns the municipal determination, then the BPU determination preempts the municipal determination and the developer may proceed with the project in compliance with all other municipal regulations and requirements. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-19.

1-NJ-a.33– Appeal Decision to Superior Court (If Applicable)

Any person aggrieved by a municipal agency or BPU decision may appeal the decision to New Jersey superior court. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 40:55D-19.


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