Askin & Hooker attorneys, Todd Hooker and Matthew Lynch, appeared before the Vernon Township land use board on behalf of their client, DeBorah Goletz, the owner of a small pottery studio, known as For the Love of Mud, which Ms. Goletz operates out of her home.
Goletz was fighting to have her home pottery studio categorized as a “home occupation,” specifically defined under Vernon’s land use ordinance. The law firm successfully argued that the pottery studio’s operations uniquely matched the ordinance requirements, which allowed her to continue teaching students in the home-based studio.
“We are very proud of the work we did to convince Vernon Township to allow Ms. Goletz to teach classes from her home studio,” states Todd Hooker. “These cases are particularly challenging because each one is different, and they are very fact sensitive. The land use board’s exacting requirements can be daunting, but Ms. Goletz met each challenge with the grace and composure of a professional artist, which, of course, she is. In the end, we are very happy for our client and extremely satisfied that the township board agreed with our position on this application.”
DeBorah Goletz holds a master’s degree in fine art and has served as a ceramics and kiln technology professor for three decades, most recently at Montclair State University and William Patterson University. She has published numerous writings about these topics and has been commissioned to design and create tile murals for various public institutions throughout New Jersey.
As a professional artist, Ms. Goletz has an intrinsic passion for spreading the joy of creating art and encouraging others to express their creativity through clay pottery. Although she already has the privilege to teach aspiring artists at the university level, she enjoys encouraging novice creators through her small home-based pottery studio.
Before moving the Vernon in 2018, Goletz operated the small pottery studio out of her West Milford home as a home occupation for nearly eighteen years. When she moved to Vernon, she continued to operate the studio out of her new residence, believing that she could continue to run as a home occupation, not knowing that the ordinance requirements differed from municipality to municipality. On January 16, 2020, however, she received two summonses from the zoning department for running a business out of her home without Land Use Board Approval and was required to cease offering classes.
Because of Ms. Goletz’s busy teaching schedule, the pottery studio does not operate as a typical business. For example, it is not open to the public and does not offer goods for sale. It is only open for scheduled classes that must be registered for in advance, with a maximum of two, three-hour classes per week limited in size.
COVID-19 delayed the land use board hearing until September 23, 2020. It also happened to delay the court date for the summonses from the zoning department, which were dismissed on September 24, 2020, due to the land use board’s decision that the pottery studio qualified as a home occupation.
“With many small businesses having to shut down during this unprecedented time, it is important that we support local businesses,” states Hooker. “Our firm is also thankful for and inspired by the support Professor Goletz received from the local community that came out in droves to support her during the land use board hearing. All of those signs were quite a sight to see”.