Municipal Corporations – Zoning – The Granting of a Variance Based on Unnecessary Hardship

Defendant purchased a tract of vacant land located in the most highly restricted residence zone of his city. The local zoning ordinance prescribed minimum area, width, and depth measurements for building plots in that district. Defendant desired to subdivide the property into two building plots in order to build a one-family residence on each plot. Although the first plot complied with the minimum requirements of the ordinance, the other plot was deficient in area and depth measurements. Defendant was unsuccessful in his attempts both to purchase adjoining land and to sell parts of his property to adjoining owners. He then applied to the local Board of Adjustment for a variance from the zoning ordinance, claiming hardship because of the shape of his property. The board granted the variance holding that the strict application of the zoning ordinance under the circumstances “would work an undue hardship on the owner.” Plaintiffs, property owners in the immediate neighborhood, contested the validity of the variance. The lower court affirmed the grant of the variance. On appeal, held, reversed. The defendant failed to establish a case of undue hardship as required by the zoning ordinance. Bierce v. Gross, (N.J. 1957) 135 A. (2d) 561.