SOMERSET HILLS NJ - The Gill/St. Bernard's School, a private school located both in Chester Township and Peapack-Gladstone has filed a lawsuit against the Borough of Peapck and Gladstone in the Superior Court in Somerville, according to official court documents obtained by TAP.
On November 12, Herold Law, P.A. filed a Complaint in Lieu of Prerogative Writs on behalf of the school. In the Complaint, the school asks the Superior Court to void ordinance number 1015 passed by the borough council at its September 29, 2015 public meeting. On September 29, the borough council unanimously passed Ordinance 1015, adopting a recommendation made by the Land Use Board at the conclusion of its review of the borough's Master Plan.
One of the effects of Peapack and Gladstone ordinance number 1015 is to amend the borough's land use code to eliminate private schools and hospitals as permitted uses in certain zones in the borough. Gill's property lies in one of those zones, the Rural Residential Zone District (RR-3).
Approximately 30 acres of the school's property is located in Chester. Those 30 acres contain "classroom facilities, academic buildings, athletic fields, parking facilities, a chapel, a gymnasium, a horse stable, and a performing arts center," according to the Complaint. Approximately 41 acres of the schools property are located in the RR-3 zone in Peapack-Gladstone. The 41 acres located in Peapack-Gladstone contain "athletic fields, a detention basin, a booster house, a scout cabin, tennis courts, scoreboards, dugouts, portions of parking facilities, and various out buildings," according to the Complaint.
GIll alleges that since Ordinance 1015 eliminates schools as a permitted conditional use, that it "will arguably be required to seek use variance relief from the Land Use Board", known in the trade as a "d" variance, for any new development. In the past, Gill has not needed a "d" variance. Generally, an applicant for a "d" variance hires an attorney and a planner as part of the application process, and generally a "d" variance involves a public hearing before the Land Use Board.
The case has been assigned to Hon. Yolanda Ciccone at the Superior Court in Somerville. The borough has 35 days from the date it received the Complaint to file an Answer with the court.