PLANNING AND ZONING BOARDS
PUBLIC HEARING PROCESS
New Jersey laws dictate the public hearing process for both the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
A printed Agenda shows the order in which items are heard or discussed. The Chair may change the order. There is a “curfew” indicated at the top of the Agenda. The Board may opt to hear new items after the curfew. If the Board opts to observe the curfew, a continuation date is announced for any uncompleted applications. Generally, this announcement satisfies the Public Notice requirement. To confirm a rescheduling, please call the office (973-331-3319). Agendas can also be found at the following links for the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The Planning Board and Zoning Board of Adjustment are quasi-judicial bodies meaning each operate similar to, but not as strictly as a court of law. Thus, a hearing is similar to a court proceeding. The Chair runs the proceedings as a judge might and the Board acts like a jury that vote on a final decision to approve or deny. The applicant provides testimony and will also have expert witnesses testify and introduce evidence in support of the case.
The Board, its staff, and the public, have the right to cross-examine these witnesses and finally, at the appropriate time, comment on the application. Applicant, their professionals and others having legal rights also have the right to cross-examination. Thus, statements should be supportable and factual. The Board is legally required to act on an application based upon the findings of fact and the proofs according to law that are presented to them. Although the Board may take public input into account, it cannot and does not act solely based on public support or opposition. The Board cannot make decisions based upon financial considerations such as "ratables" or" tax” revenues.
Anyone wishing to speak or testify at a hearing must appear in person to allow all parties the opportunity to cross-examination.
Petitions are NOT admissible into evidence and cannot be read at a hearing. Letters are only admissible if you are present to be cross-examined.
A verbatim (word-by-word) record of the proceeding is kept by electronic media format and/or by a court reporter. Therefore, speakers are directed to first provide name and address and then to speak clearly and loudly. Speakers may come forward only after being called forward by the Chair.
- Upon submission, each application is assigned a number
- When the Chair calls an application, the applicant and/or an attorney comes forward, and states the name(s) for the record. Corporate entities require attorney representation.
- The applicant/attorney provides a brief overview of the proposal and calls their witnesses
- Each expert witness states his/her name and occupation, is sworn, and presents professional credentials to the Board.
- The applicant’s attorney guides the expert witness through the expert testimony.
- The Board and its professional staff ask questions.
Public Questions and Comments
- The Chair opens the meeting to the public, limited at this time to questions only of the witness testifying. This is the time for questions only as to the testimony offered and is not the time for ‘general’ comments on the application filed.
- A member of the public may come to the microphone when acknowledged by the Chair, is to state his name and address for the record, and is then permitted to direct questions to the appropriate party.
- Expert witnesses only testify in their field of expertise.
- After public questions are completed the Chair temporarily closes the hearing on this aspect of testimony.
- This process is repeated with each different expert witness.
- When all witnesses have been presented and the testimony is complete, the Board and its staff have the opportunity to ask any final questions.
- Just before the Board takes final action on the application, the Chair will once again open the meeting to the public. This is the time to comment on the proposal, request some special consideration and/or ask any final questions. This is probably the last opportunity for the public to speak on the application. Remarks may be directed to a specific person or to the Board.
When you follow the above procedures, your contributions will have maximum impact on the Board's deliberations as they deliberate a land use application. Remember though that the Chair has the right to close the public portion of a hearing if the audience becomes unruly, and the Chair may also limit repetitive comments or irrelevant testimony. The Chair may also limit the time or number of questions or comments from one citizen in order to allow adequate time for other members of the public to comment.
These procedures are generally strictly adhered to during hearings on large or complex applications. For small or simple applications, the Chair may open the hearing for both questions and comments at the same time.
If you are not satisfied with a board’s final decision, you have the right to appeal this decision within 45 days from adoption of the Board’s resolution in Superior Court.
We hope that this evening and your participation in it will prove to be a rewarding experience for you, and we thank you for coming out to participate in this vital democratic process.
If you have any other questions about the Board process, feel free to call the Land Use Offices at (973) 331-3319 or email the following staff members.