Glossary and Definitions of Terms Used in NJ Zoning Law

Vocabulary words have meaning both in life and in the law. Below I have listed the most frequent terms used in this website and what each word means. The terms are listed in alphabetical order. I am certain this glossary will be of assistance to you in your reading.

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Administrative Officer means the Planning Board Secretary for all matters other than the issuance of zoning permits and the necessary inspections and plan reviews required to issue a zoning permit, in which case the administrative officer shall be deemed to be the Zoning Officer.

Applicant means the person or entity filing an application with the Zoning/Planning Board.

Buffer Area means a strip of land of specified width containing natural woodlands, earth mounds or other planted screening material and separating one kind of land use from another or separating a planned development from any other form of development.

Complete Application means submission of an application form provided by the Township and completed by the applicant, together with all accompanying documents required by this chapter for approval of the application for development, including, where applicable, but not limited to, the checklist provided for by the municipality.

Conditional Use means a use permitted in a particular zoning district only upon a showing that such use in a specified location will comply with the conditions and standards for the location or operation of such use as contained in this chapter and upon the issuance of an authorization therefor by the Planning Board.

Coverage means the portion of the lot covered by impervious surfaces and expressed as a percentage in which the numerator is the area of the lot covered by impervious surfaces, and the denominator is the gross area of the lot.

Density shall mean the permitted number of dwelling units per gross acre of land to be developed. For purposes of this chapter “units/gross acre” shall be calculated with deductions for environmentally sensitive areas as set forth in the definition of “Environmentally sensitive areas.” Further, for purposes of this chapter, “design density” shall be the number of units per acre on that portion of the tract devoted to a specific housing type including streets, parking areas, driveways and yards, but excluding other areas to be set aside for common property or other dedicated land under a cluster development plan.

Development Rights means the nature and extent to which land, including air space v above and subsurface resources, may be developed under applicable zoning and other land use planning regulations.

Easement means written and recorded authorization by a property owner for the use of a designated part of the property by others for a specified purpose. Easements may be purchased from the property owner or donated by the owner to the municipality or other public agency.

Final Approval means the official action of the Planning Board taken on a preliminary approved major subdivision or site plan after all conditions, engineering plans and other requirements have been completed or fulfilled and the required improvements have been installed or guaranties properly posted for their completion or approval conditioned upon the posting of such guaranties.  Final Approval also grants the Applicant rights against changes in zoning requirements for two years after the Planning/Zoning Board’s adoption of a resolution of final approval.

Flag Lot means a lot whose area, exclusive of its access drive, meets the area requirement of the zoning provisions of this chapter. The lot’s configuration is one of reduced frontage on an approved street, generally a width sufficient for use as a driveway or future street, with the enlarged buildable portion of the lot located at the rear of the lot at the end of the access drive.

Flood Plain means nearly level area adjacent to a stream, river or other water body, subject to flooding or inundation under heavy rain or blockage conditions. A “100-year floodplain” would include the area or flooding from a storm that has a one percent chance of occurring.

Floor Area means the area of all floors computed by using the dimensions of the outside walls of each floor of a building. Only those areas having completed floors, ceilings generally (not always) may be considered in computing the second floor area of a one-and-one-half-story house and at least 1/2 of the included second floor area shall have a minimum ceiling height of seven feet six inches. Cellars (but not basements), porches, balconies, patios, terraces, breezeways, enclosed pedestrian walkways, carports, verandas and garages are excluded, as is enclosed parking for nonresidential use except that enclosed porches and patios which are heated and used year-round shall be counted in computing the floor area.

Floor Area Ratio (FAR) means the sum of the area of all floors of buildings or structures compared to the total area of the site.

Front Lot Line means the lot line separating a lot from the street.

Impervious Surface means an artificial surface (such as pavement, concrete, or buildings) that prevents or essentially prevents the infiltration of water from the land surface into the soil and subsurface layers.

Infrastructure means public utilities, facilities, and delivery systems such as storm sewers, sanitary sewers, streets, curbing, sidewalks and other public utilities and services.

Lot Lines means the property lines at the perimeter of a lot.

Lot Width means the distance between the side lot lines measured at the front yard setback line.

Major Subdivision means the division of a lot, tract or parcel of land into more than one lot, tracts, parcels or other divisions of land for sale or development. One of the major responsibilities of the Planning Board is the review of subdivisions.

Master Plan means a report or statement of land use and development proposals with maps, diagrams and text that serves as the basic guide for community development. It projects the municipality’s long-range development goals and policies.       The Planning Board prepares the Master Plan and is responsible for its content. The Master Plan is required to be reexamined by the Planning Board at east every six years and recommendations are made to the Township Committee for appropriate ordinance changes.

Minor Subdivision means the division of a lot or lots, tracts or parcels in which the number of proposed new lots will be a net gain of no more than one or two new lots.

MLUL means the New Jersey Municipal Land Use Law under which municipalities are enabled to enact a Master Plan and land use ordinances.

Negative Criteria means proof required in every variance application that there is no substantial negative impact on the zoning plan, zoning ordinance, or public good as a result of any variances approved.

NJDCA means the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, a state agency charged with overseeing local government services, housing, finances, etc. in New Jersey.

NJDEP means the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, a state agency charged with protection and preservation of natural resources and control of toxins in the natural environment in New Jersey.

Nonconforming Lot means a lot, the area, dimension or location of which was lawful prior to the adoption, revision or amendment of an ordinance but that fails to conform to the current requirements of the ordinance.

Nonconforming Use means a use or activity that lawfully existed prior to the adoption, revision or amendment of an ordinance but that fails to conform to the current requirements of the ordinance.

Nonconforming Structure means a structure, the size, dimension or location of which was lawful prior to the adoption, revision or amendment of a Zoning Ordinance, but which fails to conform to the requirements of the zoning district in which it is located by reasons of such adoption, revision or amendment.

Preliminary Approval means the conferral of certain development rights granted to an applicant by the Planning Board/Zoning Board prior to Final Approval after specific elements of a development plan have been agreed upon by the Planning Board and the Applicant. Generally, a Preliminary Approval protects the development application against changes in zoning for a period of three years.

Rear Lot Line means a lot line, generally opposite the front lot line.

Setback Line means a line parallel to a street line or lot line beyond which a building shall not project. The minimum yard requirements shall be the minimum required setbacks. On flag lots, the minimum yard requirements shall exclude the access drive. All setbacks from public streets shall be measured from the proposed right-of-way as shown on the adopted Master Plan.

Side Lot Line means a lot line that is neither a front lot line nor a rear lot line.

Site Plan means a development plan on which it is shown certain information and data required by the MLUL and the Township’s zoning ordinance and rules.

Site Plan means a development plan for one (1) or more lots on which is shown the existing and proposed conditions of the lot, including, but not necessarily limited to, topography, vegetation, drainage, floodplains, marshes and waterways; the location of all existing and proposed buildings, drives, parking spaces, walkways, means of ingress and egress, drainage facilities, utility services, landscaping, structures and signs, lighting and screening devices; and other information that may be reasonably required in order to make an informed determination pursuant to an ordinance requiring review and approval of site plans by the Planning Board adopted pursuant to Article IV of this chapter.

Spot Zoning means a change in the zoning that provides a benefit to a property which is not available to others similarly situated; which is generally regarded as undesirable or illegal because it violates equal treatment and sound planning principles.

Variance means certain types of relief that an applicant may request in conjunction with an application before the Planning/Zoning Board.

“C(1)” Variance refers to MLUL Section 40:55D-70.c(1) where the applicant is required to demonstrate peculiar and exceptional practical difficulties or exceptional and undue hardship due to (a) the exceptional narrowness, shallowness or shape of a specific piece of property, (b) exceptional topographic conditions or physical features uniquely affecting a specific piece of property, or (c) an extraordinary and exceptional situation uniquely affecting a specific piece of property.

“C(2)” Variance refers to MLUL Section 40:55D-70.c(2) which allows the granting of a variance where the purposes of the MLUL would be advanced by a deviation from the zoning ordinance requirements and the benefits would outweigh any detriment to the public good.

“D” Variance refers to MLUL Section 40:55D-70.d which allows the granting of use variances, nonconforming use variances, conditional use variances, and floor area ratio, density and height variances. Applications for “D” variances can only be reviewed by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

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Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, New Jersey Zoning Law Attorney