A Welding Business is a “Home Occupation” Under a Broad Ordinance

Columbro v. Lebanon Tp. Bd. of Adj.., 424 N.J. Super. 501 (App. Div. 2012).  Defendants Michael and Frances Edwards obtained a conditional use variance that allowed them to conduct a welding business in the garage of their home, which was located in a residential zone.  The basis of the Board of Adjustment’s decision to grant that approval was the finding that the welding business was a “home occupation” under the applicable ordinance, and that the garage constituted an “accessory” to the Edwards’s residence.  Plaintiffs appealed the approval to the Law Division, which affirmed the Board.  On further appeal, the Appellate Division also affirmed, in an opinion by Judge Fasciale.

The panel began by noting that municipal land use decisions ordinarily involve an “arbitrary and capricious” standard of review, but that legal questions, such as whether the welding business was a “home occupation,” are not entitled to any particular deference.  Unlike in Adams v. Delmonte, 309 N.J. Super. 572 (App. Div. 1998), on which plaintiffs relied, the ordinance in this case was so “expansive” that it permitted a finding that the welding business was a “home occupation.” 

Judge Fasciale was highly complimentary of the Law Division judge, Judge Buchsbaum.  The panel affirmed substantially on the basis of Judge Buchsbaum’s opinion below, quoting large parts of that opinion and “adopt[ing] … in their entirety” some of Judge Buchsbaum’s observations.  Judge Buchsbaum’s written opinion was found to be “cogent,” “extensive and comprehensive,” “pertinent and incisive,” and “thorough and well-written.”  Such fervent appellate “attaboys” for trial judges are infrequent, and Judge Buchsbaum can justifiably be proud to have received them in this case.