I represent the Freehold Township Planning Board and I have recently become aware of some claims on social media pertaining to participation in hearings involving certain applications by the mayor and Township Committee members who are also members of the Planning Board.
There is an accusation that the mayor and committee members had either avoided or otherwise willfully refused to participate in processing certain applications and in fact have left the hearing room in apparent dereliction of their duties. This accusation demonstrates a lack of understanding of the law.
Because the Freehold Township Planning Board is now a consolidated board and exercises the functions of the prior Zoning Board of Adjustment, it receives and processes applications for so-called use variances.
Where these use variance applications are under consideration, the New Jersey State Municipal Land Use Law provides that the mayor and Township Committee member shall not participate in the consideration of the application.
If anyone is interested in doing the research, I refer you to the New Jersey Revised Statutes section 40:55D-25(c)(2) which contains the applicable language.
Therefore, it has been my counsel to the members of the Township Committee who sit on the board (Class I member being the mayor and Class III member being a member of the governing body) that they must disqualify themselves from hearing any use variance application and further, in order to avoid any even remote appearance of influence or participation in the process, my counsel has been that they should remove themselves from the hearing room.
The recent actions of the mayor and committee members in disqualifying themselves from considering a use variance application and subsequently leaving the hearing room was absolutely not in derogation of any of their official duties, but in fact represented compliance with good government procedures and the law.
Francis C. Accisano
Accisano Law Offices