Zoning is an important and fundamental aspect of any development, from the construction of a small addition or accessory building on a residential lot to a major subdivision or commercial site plan. Yet, all too often, to some extent, it is overlooked.
Zoning can essentially be divided into three basic categories: Subdivisions, Site Plans, and Enforcement.
Zoning Permit Process
The Board of Adjustment, also known as the Zoning Board, is a quasi-judicial entity. Under the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL), Chapter 55D of the New Jersey Revised State Statutes, when a municipality adopts a zoning ordinance, it must also create a Zoning Board of Adjustment. It is the Board for "non-permitted uses." As such, the Board of Adjustment deals with the issuance of variances.
Variances are based upon the individual municipality's zoning ordinance. The zoning ordinance establishes specific requirements for a land area within a municipality and regulates not only the uses permitted, but the size of the parcels, setbacks required, parking, signs, conditional uses and numerous other such regulations.
The Board of Adjustment has the power to grant a variance from the Borough ordinances, when:
- There is physical or topographical or legal constraints on a property which keep it from being developed according to the ordinances;
- The proposed use is a benefit to the municipality or the public good;
- In particular cases for special reasons.
The Board may also interpret the zoning ordinance.
The Board may grant site plan or subdivision approvals or conditional use approvals associated with any of its primary powers.
This website provides some downloadable/viewable "PDF file" versions of "Zoning Review - Combo Form" created and made available by the Zoning Department and contained on the Online Forms page. Please read carefully the following disclaimer:
This web version of the zoning review combo form is for general information and convenience only. It contains a compilation of some sections of the zoning ordinance that pertain to most residential permit applications. It also contains citations to the zoning ordinance. If there are any inconsistencies between this form and the zoning ordinance, the zoning ordinance as amended shall control. This form is not suitable for more complicated applications that require a variance or subdivision or site plan approval.
The up-to-date, definitive versions of the complete ordinance is available online and at Borough Hall, and should be consulted before proceeding with any project or plan.
Subdivisions can range from a lot line adjustment between neighbors to a major development. Most subdivisions proceed before the Planning Board. The Planning Board maintains jurisdiction of subdivisions regardless of size and including those, which involve "bulk" variances (i.e. setbacks, lot area, steep slopes, impervious area, etc.).
Subdivisions (and the fees and escrow deposits for same) are broken down into the following: concept plan, lot line adjustment (minor subdivision for), minor subdivision or re-subdivision with no variance, minor subdivision or re-subdivision with variance(s), preliminary major subdivision and final major subdivision. There is an Application For Subdivisions & Re-Subdivisions form (which includes the fees and escrows) that must be completed. Most subdivisions proceed before the Planning Board. The Planning Board maintains jurisdiction of subdivisions regardless of size and including those which involve "bulk" variances (ie: setbacks, lot area, steep slopes, impervious area, etc.).
However, if a subdivision contains any "use" variance (ie: non-permitted use, floor area ratio, certain height variances) it would then be within the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Please refer to the description below for the Zoning Board of Adjustment and to the Forms for applicable applications and instructions.
Site Plans most often involve non-residential uses. Typical applications involve the construction of, or additions or alterations to a non-residential building, change of use which requires additional parking on a lot with insufficient parking, parking lot expansion, etc.. Like subdivisions, most site plans, including those involving "bulk" variances, are within the jurisdiction of the Planning Board.
Site plans (and the fees and escrow deposits for same) are broken down into the following: concept plan, minor residential site plan (professional use, accessory apartments), non-residential site plan review/waiver (facade changes without site work, building expansion nor variances), minor non-residential site plan, preliminary major non-residential site plan, final major non-residential site plan, preliminary major residential site plan and final major residential site plan. There is an Application For Site Plan form (which includes the fees and escrows) which must be completed. Like subdivisions, most site plans, including those involving "bulk" variances are within the jurisdiction of the Planning Board.
Planning Board Checklists to use for reviewing your application are available and should be used to determine if an application is complete prior to submission to the Planning Board.
However, any "use" variance puts a site plan within the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Please refer to the description below for the Zoning Board of Adjustment and to the Online Forms for applicable applications and instructions.
Residential properties are the most frequent source of zoning review for individual lot applications in the Borough. These include new homes, additions and accessory buildings and structures such as detached garages, sheds, pools, pool houses, tennis courts, etc.. The Zoning Officer has prepared separate forms for each of the seven (7) most active residential zones.
First you must determine which zone you are in by locating your lot on the Zoning Map. Then you can go to the appropriate Zoning Review Combo Form for a summary of the applicable zoning requirements. The section numbers in the left margin of the forms correspond to those in the Zoning Ordinance. The Online Forms page also includes links to forms for Non-Tree Removal, Certification Receipt for Wetlands Notice,Free Standing Sign Application, Wall Sign Application, Fence Regulations, Stormwater Management Application, Driveway Requirements, Zoning Summary Table and Home Based Business Requirements. On this page, there is also a sample of a Slope Disturbance Analysis and the Drywell Standards for the Borough in addition to the Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act which should be reviewed.
If upon review of the survey/lot development plans and building plans, etc. the Zoning Officer finds your application in conformance, the application will then proceed to the Building Department for code review. As you can see, even though the "Combo Form" are just a summary of the most often needed sections of the Ordinance, the scope of the regulations are extensive. However, the Zoning Officer must confirm conformance with the applicable regulations prior to completing his review.
Incomplete applicants will be notified of the deficiencies, which prolongs the review process. Therefore, it is important for the applicant to address all applicable provisions by detailed plans and/or attachments.
Non-Residential reviews are more involved, so "Combo Form" are not available. However, the Zoning Officer has prepared "Zoning Highlights" for B-1 and C-1 Zones, which you can review at Borough Hall.
If the Zoning Officer must deny your application, then you can either amend same to conform to the ordinance or seek a Variance before the Zoning Board of Adjustment. All single lot variance applications which do not involve a subdivision or site plan are within the jurisdiction of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, regardless of the type of variance sought. Please refer to the description below for the Zoning Board of Adjustment and to the Online Forms for applicable applications and instructions.
Typical examples of violations are: non-permitted use in a building, illegal signs, overcrowding, commercial vehicles, property maintenance. It is best to call the Zoning Enforcement Officer at 908-766-3000, Ext. 114, when the alleged offense is occurring, and provide her with as much detail as possible. This sounds simple, but all too often a complaint is made relative to an event which took place a week or more in the past, or a building (for instance a shed) constructed too close to a property line, after it is completed.
Some infractions reported to the Zoning Department are within the jurisdictions of other agencies and are best reported directly to the proper enforcing agency rather than using the zoning office as the "middle-man", which can lead to misinformation and/or delay in relaying the information to the proper authority.
Below are some examples and relevant contacts:
- Abandoned/unregistered vehicles - contact Police Department (but report Commercial Vehicles to Zoning)
- After hours construction noise (heavy equipment) - contact Police Department
- "Dumping" - contact Health Department and/or Police Department
- Encroachment of streams, flood plain, wetlands and wetland buffers - contact NJ DEP
Some of the appropriate phone numbers for these agencies are indicated below:
- NJ Department of Environmental Protection (NJ DEP): (609) 984-3285 or (609) 292-1240
- Bernards Township Health Department (contractually serving the Borough of Bernardsville): (908) 204-3070
- Bernardsville Police Department: (908) 766-0037
Question, complaint, or request?
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1 Anderson Hill Rd. Suite 103, Bernardsville, NJ 07924
Mon-Fri: 8:30am - 4:30pm
P: 908-766-3000, F: 908-766-1315
1 Anderson Hill Rd. Suite 103 Bernardsville, NJ 07924
Housing Inspector & Zoning Code Enforcement Officer
908-766-3000 ext. 119
1 Anderson Hill Rd. Suite 103
See links to zoning map and zoning review combo form. Please call office if uncertain.
Download from the web site or visit the office, located on the 3rd floor of the Municipal Building.
22 sets of all documents, with the exception of stormwater and traffic studies. The count for these documents is determined by the Administrative Officer on a per application basis.