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Napierkowski v. Township of Gloucester

Decided: April 20, 1959.

LAURA NAPIERKOWSKI, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
TOWNSHIP OF GLOUCESTER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from Superior Court, Law Division.

For reversal -- Chief Justice Weintraub, and Justices Burling, Jacobs, Francis and Proctor. For affirmance -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Burling, J.

Burling

This is a proceeding in lieu of prerogative writ attacking certain ordinances of the Township of Gloucester, County of Camden, at least insofar as those ordinances are designed to prohibit plaintiff from maintaining and utilizing a trailer-home on her lot, located in the township.

The Superior Court, Law Division, after hearings, entered a judgment in favor of the plaintiff, and the township prosecuted an appeal to the Superior Court, Appellate Division. While the cause was pending there, and prior to argument, we certified it on our own motion.

Plaintiff's lot is approximately four acres in size and was purchased by her in 1946. Her residence at the time of commencement of the instant proceedings was in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In March 1957 plaintiff purchased a house trailer or mobile home, intending to place it on her lot for use as a permanent residence by herself and her husband. Several days after purchasing the trailer plaintiff orally inquired of the township clerk whether she might place a trailer on her lot and was informed that she could not. The township had in 1947 enacted an ordinance entitled "An Ordinance defining trailers or camp cars and prohibiting the parking and placing of the same within the limits of the Township of Gloucester, in the County of Camden and State of New Jersey." The unmistakable import of the

1947 trailer ordinance was to prohibit the use of trailers for residential purposes within the township.

Plaintiff thereupon informed the vendor of the trailer of the fact that she was unable to locate the trailer in the township. By letter dated April 29, 1957 the trailer vendor's attorney wrote to the township's solicitor advising that in his opinion the 1947 trailer ordinance was inapplicable to plaintiff since section 1 of that ordinance defined a trailer "to be a vehicle * * * designed to permit the occupancy thereof as a dwelling or sleeping place for one or more persons and having no foundation other than wheels, jacks or skirtings so arranged as to be integral with or portable by said trailer or camp car," whereas plaintiff proposed to place her trailer on a concrete foundation. The township committee, at its May 6, 1957 meeting, was informed of counsel's contention but rejected it, since it was the committee's belief that the ordinance prohibited any use of a trailer as living quarters.

Thereafter plaintiff was represented by her present attorney. There followed a course of negotiations between plaintiff's attorney and the township which failed to reach any accord. On July 15, 1957 plaintiff commenced the instant in lieu proceeding. The complaint alleged that the 1947 trailer ordinance was unconstitutional. The township, in its answer, further alleged that plaintiff's proposed location of the trailer would violate the township's zoning ordinance.

The township zoning ordinance was passed on first reading on May 20, 1957; was amended and passed on second reading on June 17, 1957 and was adopted on July 1, 1957. Under its terms plaintiff's land is located in an "A" Residence District. Section 500 provides:

"500. In all "A" Residence Districts the following uses (and no others) of lands and buildings are permitted.

(2) One family detached dwelling.

"(2) No building shall have usable first floor area of less than 800 square feet, except in the case of the type of building known as 'split level.' * * *"

Plaintiff's trailer has a floor area of 500 square feet.

The zoning ordinance further permits dwellings to be located in the industrial zone provided that such dwellings conform to the limitations of "A" Residence Districts and provided further that prior approval of the board of adjustment is obtained.

On September 3, 1957 the township adopted a second trailer ordinance. This ordinance expressly repealed all inconsistent provisions of the prior ordinance. The 1957 trailer ordinance is entitled: "An ordinance to regulate and control trailer, trailer coaches, camp cars and trailer camps in the Township of Gloucester." Trailer is defined as:

"any unit used for living, sleeping, or business purposes, by one or more persons, which is equipped with wheels or similar devices used for the purpose of transporting said unit from place to place, whether it be self-propelled or otherwise."

Trailer camp is defined as:

"any place, area, lot, or tract of land upon which is located any Trailer * * *."

Section 3 of the ordinance then provides:

"No person * * * owning * * * any trailer shall locate, park, keep, or maintain said trailer upon any lot or tract of land within the Township of Gloucester, except upon a trailer camp conducted, maintained, and licensed in full and complete compliance with all the provisions of this Ordinance."

There follows a comprehensive scheme for the regulation of trailer camps within the township, including provisions for adequate drainage, light and air, traffic congestion, water supply, sewerage facilities, lavatory facilities, collection of

garbage and waste materials and sufficient lighting of ...


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