[73 NJSuper Page 156] On June 5, 1959 defendant A.S. Pater Realty Co., Inc. (Pater), through its president Abraham Schiller, wrote to the Board of Commissioners of Ridgefield Park requesting permission to erect two billboards on its district "D" property advertising a land development project which Pater hoped to undertake. As a result of this letter and a subsequent letter of June 10, 1959 to Mayor Vogt of Ridgefield Park, several meetings were arranged. Schiller and the officials charged with the interpretation and enforcement of Ridgefield Park's zoning ordinance met and discussed the request made by Pater. These meetings resulted in a tentative understanding whereby Ridgefield Park agreed that it would permit Pater to erect one billboard, 15 feet high and 75 feet long, and Pater agreed that it would devote one-half of the billboard space to the advertisement of a safety slogan for
Ridgefield Park and use the other half to advertise Pater's land development program.
The informal understanding reached between Pater and Ridgefield Park was formalized on July 3, 1959 in the following municipal resolution:
"WHEREAS, the A.S. Pater Realty Company, Inc. of 177 Gold Avenue, Paterson, New Jersey, applied on June 5, 1959 to the Commissioners of the Village of Ridgefield Park, under the provisions of Section 8(A)(2) of the Ridgefield Park Zoning Ordinance of 1945 for permission to erect a sign on Lots Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in Block 146 as shown on the assessment map of the Village of Ridgefield Park; and
WHEREAS, accompanying the aforesaid application were sketches of the proposed sign and its location on the aforesaid property; and
WHEREAS, the proposed sign is to be 15 feet in highth [ sic ] by 75 feet in length, and to be constructed above the ground level an additional 15 feet;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Building Inspector of the Village of Ridgefield Park be and he is hereby directed to issue a permit to A.S. Pater Realty Company, Inc. on the following express conditions:
1. That the sign shall not exceed 30 feet in highth [ sic ] as measured from the ground and 75 feet in length.
2. That all advertising matter to be placed on the face of said sign be first submitted to the Commissioners for approval, which approval shall not be unreasonably withheld."
Pater, based upon the resolution of July 3, 1959, erected the sign envisioned by it and Ridgefield Park and began with its planned land development project. As is sometimes the case where virgin land is concerned, Pater's hope of realizing a profit from its undertaking never became a reality. Pater then wrote to Ridgefield Park and requested permission to utilize its sign for purely commercial messages. Finding the Board of Commissioners of Ridgefield Park unsympathetic to its request, Pater nevertheless proceeded in October of 1960 to use its billboard for the advertisement of an automobile. A few short months thereafter a new message espousing the virtues of certain garden apartments took the place of the automobile advertisement. The sign continues in this form to the present date.
The board of commissioners, aggrieved at Pater's asserted self-determination, instituted this suit to prevent Pater from using the sign for any purpose and for an adjudication that Pater be compelled to remove it. Pater disputes Ridgefield Park's right to the relief sought and maintains that the section in ...