The Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, recently found that an easement for ingress and egress granted from one property to another can be modified to allow for parking where the intent of the grantor and the Township’s parking ordinances dictate as such. See Rasulova v. Aguila, BER-C-39-21, (N.J. Super. Ct. Ch. Div. 2021). In 2000, Jonathan Lesko bought 116 and 118 Grove Street in Mahwah, New Jersey, also known as Lots 57, 58, 59, and 60. A driveway (the “cutout lot”), which was previously a public road and had been conveyed in part by the Township to the owners of Lots 57 and 58, adjoined those lots. Lesko subdivided the lots into two residential homes, and due to the location of the lots, 116 Grove Street functionally had two driveways, a large driveway in front of the house and then the cutout lot, while 118 Grove Street had no driveway nor access to Grove Street. Township ordinances prohibit off-street parking, and also require that residential dwellings have a minimum of two parking spots. In 2005, while Lesko still owned all of the lots, he granted “as owner of Lots 57 and 58” an easement for the cutout lot area “in favor of Lots 59 and 60 . . . for ingress and egress,” among other things. Following Lesko’s subdivision project, 116 and 118 Grove Streets were conveyed to respective owners, who eventually conveyed the properties (separately) to Plaintiff (the 116 Grove owner) and Defendant (the 118 Grove owner). Throughout that time, “Defendant [was] consistently parking on that easement area.” Beginning in 2020, Plaintiff had “a need to use that easement area to access a parking lot that is located next to the easement area,” which was often blocked off because Defendant was parked in the cutout lot. Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant, seeking relief preventing Defendant from parking in the easement area.
Following a trial, the Court ruled in favor of Defendant and dismissed Plaintiff’s claims. The Court found that although the easement granted from the 116 Grove lots to the 118 Grove lots only allowed for ingress and egress, the Court could use “the intent of the conveyor [of the easement as] normally determined by the language of the conveyance read as an entirety and in light of the surrounding circumstances” to interpret the easement’s purpose. Here, Mr. Lesko, the grantor of the easement, testified that the purpose of the easement was to allow for the 118 Grove owner to use the cutout lot as a driveway, given the lack of parking that would be available to the owner otherwise. Furthermore, the Court found that the Township ordinances concerning parking supported this conclusion, as street parking was prohibited and residential dwellings were required to have a minimum of two off-street parking lots. Lastly, the Court found that any burden incurred by Plaintiff in having to move or rearrange cars when Defendant used the cutout lot was an “inconvenience” and “regrettable,” but “remedying said inconvenience by finding Defendant is not entitled to use the easement is wholly inequitable.” Therefore, the Court ruled that “Plaintiff, or any subsequent property owner, is prohibited from blocking ingress, egress, or parking of at least two vehicles belonging to or authorized by Defendant, or any subsequent owner of 118 Grove Street, within the easement area.”