You can’t fight city (or town) hall, and the permits office is no exception.
In some municipalities, hostility directed towards development, especially houses, cannot be underestimated. Many residents want to live in the last house built and politicians covet “clean ratable” that do not produce more school children. Each kid, after all, is a net loss of over $9,000 to the municipality. At best, you will encounter ambivalence, so it is important to understand your municipal obstacles.
Each municipality in New Jersey, including the 53 Pinelands Commission municipalities, has its own set of laws and unwritten protocols concerning land use and zoning. Most of the local laws, called ordinances, sync with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan, but sometimes they do not.
The zoning officer is the person that typically decides whether your land meets all the requirements to build a house, or anything for that matter, at the local level. The first analysis of the zoning official is to confirm that the zone is correct for the intended use, meaning, for example, that a house can only be build in a residential zone. Sometimes what appears to be a residential area is really an area zoned for commercial use. It often is counterintuitive.
Next, each municipality sets forth rules on lot size, lot frontage, width and depth of a lot and how far the structure must be from any of the four property lines – front line, rear line, left-side line and right-side line. These rules are called area and bulk requirements in a town’s land use ordinance.
If a lot of land does not meet the bulk zoning requirements, the zoning officer must deny your zoning permit application. This denial gives you the right to appeal the decision to the local Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). Technically, ZBA members act as judges in a true legal sense. They gather the facts of each application and apply a specific law that governs variances.
Some lots have public water and sewer, whiles others will require a septic and well system. Others will have a combination of the above. For example, some areas of The Lakes section of Monroe Township in Gloucester County have public sewer but require wells for drinking water.
For public water and sewer, most of the time, this will bring you to the local utilities authority. For land without public services, applications for well and septic will involve the county health department and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. These applications and plans must be prepared by a licensed well driller and an engineer.