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Morris v. Borough of Haledon

Decided: June 25, 1952.

CHARLES T. MORRIS AND EVERETT WEAVER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOROUGH OF HALEDON, HERBERT POTTS AND J. HENRY VITZ, TRADING AS PAINTEX BODY WORKS, HERRMANN SHEET METAL WORKS, INC., A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ARTHUR SEIBER, LAWRENCE FREUDENTHAL AND NEIL STRUYK, BUILDING INSPECTOR OF THE BOROUGH OF NORTH HALEDON, DEFENDANTS



Grimshaw, J.s.c.

Grimshaw

[20 NJSuper Page 435] The Borough of Haledon is the owner of a tract of land situate in the Borough of North Haledon, in Passaic County. On this property is a reservoir, from

which comes the water supply of both boroughs. Until recently the area surrounding the reservoir was distinctly rural in character and rather sparsely settled. That condition has been changed somewhat by the construction of a development of small houses.

In the late 1930's the Government established a camp for the National Youth Administration on the reservoir property. Several buildings were erected, in which a trade school was conducted. The boys who attended the camp were taught carpentry, painting, plumbing, welding and kindred trades. Part of the equipment was a foundry. There were lathes, saws, grinders and other similar machines. As a part of its activities the school produced cabinets, bolts, cast grates and other foundry products. The machinery in use at the school was similar to that now used by the defendants herein.

With the advent of the war the need for the camp disappeared and it was closed late in 1942. For a short period thereafter the buildings were occupied by the Signal Corps of the Army. Later a part of the property was rented to a corporation making gun turrets and gun mounts.

In March of 1943 the defendant Freudenthal rented one of the buildings for use as a woodworking shop. That building burned in 1948 and Freudenthal then took over the building which he now occupies and in which he has a woodworking establishment. The defendants Potts and Vitz, trading as Paintex Body Works, rented the building occupied by them, in February of 1946. They run a business for the repair and painting of truck bodies. Herrmann Sheet Metal Works rented its place of business in July of 1947.

On August 13, 1941, while the Youth Administration was occupying the property, the Borough of North Haledon adopted a zoning ordinance. Under the provisions of that ordinance the tract in question was placed in the "A" residential zone. The borough has never objected to the business operations of the several defendants. In fact, the building inspector of the borough testified that he had given them certificates of occupancy.

The plaintiff Morris purchased the property now occupied by him, in 1947. Originally his house was a summer cottage. He has since converted it into a year-round residence. It is located about 120 feet distant from the shop of Freudenthal, 150 feet from the Herrmann plant, and 275 feet from that of Paintex.

The businesses of the several defendants were in full operation when the plaintiff moved into the neighborhood, but he was not disturbed until the summer of 1948. Then, he says, he was continually upset day and night by excessive noise occasioned by hammering on metal, racing truck motors, power-driven saws and steam cleaning devices. It was impossible for him and his family to carry on a normal conversation or listen to a radio. At night the noise was accompanied by blinding flashes from welding machines. Sleep was disturbed. Noisome odors and soot from burning rubbish piles came in plaintiff's windows.

The defendants deny that there is noise in excess of that normally associated with the operation of their respective businesses. They also deny that they operate their plants at night. While admitting that it was customary to burn rubbish about a year and a half ago, they say that the practice was discontinued following a protest from the health officials of the borough and that it has not been started again.

In 1950, after several unsuccessful appearances before the borough council, the plaintiff instituted this litigation. He was joined in it by one Weaver, who has since been dropped as a party plaintiff. The complaint is in three counts. In the first count the plaintiff seeks a mandatory injunction against the further continuation of the defendants' businesses on the ground that they are being conducted in violation of the borough zoning ordinance and also because they constitute nuisances. In the second count, plaintiff seeks an injunction to compel the Borough of Haledon to surface and widen a right of ...


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