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Howarth v. Borough of Wenonah

Decided: April 14, 1961.

ROBERT HOWARTH, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
BOROUGH OF WENONAH, ETC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS



Schalick, J.s.c.

Schalick

A local improvement ordinance was adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Borough of Wenonah and sewer facilities were constructed under its authority and completed in 1959. The plaintiffs, 21 in number, appeal from the assessments made against their properties for a part of the cost of the local improvement.

The assessments were made by the members of the Wenonah Board of Assessment, and the assessments were confirmed by the mayor and council of said borough on June 25, 1959.

The question involved is the compliance with the statute R.S. 40:56-27, which provides:

"All assessments levied under this chapter for any local improvement shall in each case be as nearly as may be in proportion to and not in excess of the peculiar benefit, advantage or increase in value which the respective lots and parcels of real estate shall be deemed to receive by reason of such improvement."

It is conceded that the properties of each of the applicants was benefited, but the disagreement is the amount of the increase of value as a result of the improvement. The accuracy of the methods in arriving at such increase is in sharp dispute.

It was stipulated that the Borough of Wenonah, prior to this assessment, had and still has a restrictive ordinance requiring a minimum of 75-foot frontage for a dwelling unit. This restriction is pertinent in reference to the use of the plaintiffs' parcels of land.

The borough derives its authority from N.J.S.A. 40:56-1 et seq. It is stipulated that all ordinances and subsequent proceedings meet the requirements of the statutes and the appeals are properly before this court pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:56-54.

The proofs show that the assessments were made on the basis of the area of each parcel, limiting the depth to 150

feet. The square footage of each lot was computed, then the square footage of all lots was totaled, and that total was related to the total cost to ascertain the required cost per square foot, which was $.045362624 per square foot. To illustrate, many of the lots were 75 feet front and 150 feet deep, or 11,250 square feet, which was multiplied by $.045362624 as a cost per square foot to arrive at an assessment of $510.33 for each of such lots. Twenty-seven lots, 75 feet by 150 feet, are so assessed, but in some instances two or more of such size lots form an individual property of one of the appellants. In other property assessments one or more lots of that size with another irregular parcel form a property. The method of assessment as heretofore outlined never varies on the schedule of assessments. When the boundary measurements were not regular, then an improvised method of computation was used, such as P-15, Maddox, (108.15' 165.72'/2) x 150', for a total of 20540.2 square feet which, when multiplied by the same cost per square foot, resulted in an assessment of $931.72. In reference to the P-20, the Howarth property which embraced several lots 75' x 150' as well as two irregular lots, the latter were treated in this fashion: as to Lot 2, Block 9, the benefited lot dimension was (15.39 x 150) (150 138.73/2) x 59.61, resulting in a benefited lot area of 10914.10 square feet and an assessment of $495.07. Adjacent to this was a 5-foot strip which was set out (137.61 138.73/2) x 5, giving a total of 690.85 and an assessment of $31.33. Both of these parcels were part of a property having other 75' x 150' lots which were similarly computed.

The expert witnesses for the defendants used either the square foot or front foot formula in making their determination of the increase of ...


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