Moorestown’s zoning board on Aug. 31 held a continued meeting regarding approval of a sober living residence, an issue that was deliberated by the board two weeks before.
The case resulted in a deadlock vote on Aug. 16 of 3-3, with six members present.
On the later meeting’s agenda, according to Moorestown Zoning Board Solicitor Melanie M. Levan, was an application from HEF Ventures LLC for an interpretation of the township code that states the operation of a cooperative sober living residence, as known as a CSLR, is a permitted use in two zones.
“The township of Moorestown permits single-family detached dwellings in residential districts, including the R-1 and R-1A zones,” Levan said. “Section 180-2 of our zoning code defines a single-family detached dwelling as, “a wholly detached building constructed or adapted for use exclusively as a place of residence for one family only.”
As defined in the ordinance, a family is defined as “related persons living together as one housekeeping unit, provided that domestic employees residing with the family shall be deemed to be members of the family for the purposes of this chapter.”
According to Levan, New Jersey’s Supreme Court has rejected that definition of family as unenforceable.
“In light of this precedent, the board cannot require that a person must be related in order to constitute a family,” she explained.
“There is no definition in the Moorestown zoning code of a single housekeeping unit and there are no published court opinions that interpret the township’s zoning code with regard to a single housekeeping unit,” according to Levan.
“I fully understand that the zoning board is tasked with determining what constitutes a single housekeeping unit,” said board member Walter Fazler. “However, this determination will dictate the use of CSLRs, and we must consider the zone planning laws when making this determination.”
Fazler made a motion that the CSLR use is not consistent with a single housekeeping unit and is not therefore permitted in the R-1 and R-1A zones.
“Part of the reason why we are going through this is to see if we are protecting the interest of our town with some order,” board member Chetan Vajapey said. “Does it fit the assemblance of a stable housekeeping unit? Yes, if you redefine a stable housekeeping unit beyond the current legal cases, which the minimum is four months.”
“If you vote yes, you are voting that this is not permitted in the zone,” Levan noted. “If you vote no, you are voting that it is permitted.”
After deliberations, the final vote to pass the application ordinance was 4-3, with four yes votes and three no votes.