Order of a Meeting
The order of events are guided by a printed agenda, available to you before the meeting from the Board Secretary. The Chair has the right to alter the order of events during the meeting. All applications on the agenda may not be completed during a given meeting. If the hearing you are interested in is not completed before adjournment, the Chair will announce a continuation date for that hearing. In such event, notices in writing will not be repeated. To confirm a continuation date, call the Planning Board office at 201-391-5700 extension 242 any weekday between 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM.
The Planning Board consists of 9 voting members and three alternates including: the Mayor or Mayoral appointment, one member of the Borough Council, the Zoning Office, a member of the Environmental Commission and 8 Montvale residents who hold no other municipal office, position or employment. All Board members are appointed by the Mayor and serve without compensation. The board is advised by its professionals including the board attorney, the board engineer and the board planner.
A hearing is comparable to a court proceeding. The Chair presides in a manner similar to a judge, and the Board sits as a jury, deliberating and voting on a final decision. The applicant provides exhibits and testimony by sworn witnesses to support the application. In addition, the Board, its advisors and members of the public have the right to cross-examine witnesses and, at the appropriate time, to comment on the merits of the proposal. The applicant also has the right of cross-examination, so evidence provided by others must be sworn and adequately supported. For this reason, petitions or letters of objection will be received by the Board but cannot be admitted into evidence. However, the signer of a petition or the writer of a letter may, of course, appear and testify.
Often, applications include a request for one or more variances. A "variance" is permission to depart from the literal requirements of the Municipal Zoning Ordinance. Such permission may be granted by the Board only upon specific showings by the applicant as required by New Jersey State Law, and the burden of proving the right to a variance rests at all times with the applicant. If the application includes one or more variance requests, the applicant must provide credible evidence, usually through expert witnesses, that either:
the strict application of any zoning regulation would result in peculiar and exceptional practical difficulties to, or exceptional and undue hardship upon, the applicant, caused by reason of exceptional shape, topography or other situation uniquely affecting the specific property or the structures thereon, or
the purposes of zoning would be advanced by a deviation from the zoning ordinance requirements and the benefits of the deviation would substantially outweigh any detriment. In either case, the applicant must also show that the variance can be granted without substantial detriment to the public good and will not substantially impair the intent and purpose of the zone plan and zoning ordinance.
As required by law, a verbatim record of the proceedings will be taken by tape recording, in the event the Board's decision is appealed. The Chair decides the order of speakers, so if you wish to be heard, wait to be recognized before making your remarks. And when you speak, start by stating your name and address, and then speak slowly, clearly and directly into the microphone. Any one who wishes to be heard will be given ample time to be heard, at the appropriate time. As the Board is a quasi-judicial body, we expect the conduct of these proceedings to be dignified and orderly so that all parties may receive a fair, impartial and expeditious hearing and that the record established is as complete, concise and accurate as possible. To that end, the Chair may limit the time or number of questions one citizen may ask, in order to give adequate time to others, and the Chair may exclude irrelevant, immaterial or unduly repetitious evidence.
Step 1. Applicant's Case. When the hearing is opened by the Chair, the applicant will come forward (usually represented by an attorney); explain the purpose of the hearing; make an opening statement; and call the first witness. The witness will be sworn in by the Board Attorney and then give testimony in the matter under the direction of the applicant or applicant's attorney.
Step 2. Cross-examination. Following that testimony, the Board and its advisors may then ask questions or request clarifications of the witness. Finally, the Chair will open the hearing to the public, limited at that time to questions only, of that witness only. After all questioning of the witness is completed, the applicant will call the next witness, and the above procedures will be repeated, subject to the Chair's discretion and to reasonable limitations as to time and number of witnesses.
Step 3. Objector's Case. When all of the applicant's witnesses have been presented and all testimony and cross-examination is completed, the Chair will invite sworn testimony from objectors and/or other interested parties, and the above procedures will again be repeated.
Step 4. Summation. The summation portion of the hearing follows the completion of all testimony. At that time, members of the public may offer comments and opinions on the matter and the applicant (or applicant's attorney) may make a closing statement.
Step 5. Decision. After all parties who wish to be heard on the matter have been heard, the hearing will be formally closed. The Board will then deliberate the matter in public, usually at the same meeting; followed by a motion to request the board attorney to prepare a resolution to be decided upon at the next regularly scheduled meeting. A brief notice of the final decision will be published in one of the official newspapers of the borough.