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United Advertising Corp. v. Borough of Metuchen

Decided: September 17, 1962.

UNITED ADVERTISING CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BOROUGH OF METUCHEN AND IRVING T. WOERNER, BUILDING AND ZONING INSPECTOR, DEFENDANTS



Convery, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Convery

This is an action in lieu of prerogative writs wherein plaintiff challenges the validity of the defendant borough's zoning ordinance which prohibits off-premise outdoor advertising signs throughout the entire community. The determination sought is that the absolute prohibition, as applied to the business and manufacturing districts, is unreasonable.

Plaintiff United Advertising Corporation is engaged in the business of erecting, maintaining and leasing standard outdoor

advertising signs. On or about December 4, 1959 it applied to Metuchen's building inspector for a permit to erect two billboards. Both were to be located on land owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad and leased to plaintiff. Billboard #1 was proposed to be erected in the B-1 business district and billboard #2 in the M-1 manufacturing district. Metuchen's zoning ordinance prohibited the use of outdoor advertising signs throughout the entire borough which do not advertise business conducted on the premises, services rendered on the premises, and/or products offered for sale on the premises. Accordingly, the applications were denied, and plaintiff commenced this in lieu proceeding challenging the validity of those sections of the ordinance which so restrict the erection of billboards and seeking an order requiring the issuance of the permits to it. Defendant's answer admitted all of the allegations in the complaint except those appearing in paragraphs 7 and 8, which contend:

"7. The refusal to issue the permit was arbitrary, unreasonable, and discriminatory.

8. Article VII, Section 1 (g) and those phases of Article IX, Section 1, which prohibit billboards in those districts except to advertise the business conducted on the premises, services rendered on the premises, and/or products offered for sale on the premises are invalid and unconstitutional; violate the equal protection clause of the Federal Constitution; constitute an unreasonable, arbitrary and discriminatory exercise of the police power; bear no reasonable relation to the police power under the Municipal Home Rule Act; are not authorized by the police power or any valid law of the State of New Jersey."

Defendant's motion for summary judgment was granted, but on appeal the matter was reversed and remanded to this court to the end that evidence be taken to determine whether "under the particular facts and circumstances existing in the business and manufacturing districts of Metuchen, the manner and method in which its signs are to be erected and maintained and the resulting benefits redounding to the community at large, the specific prohibitory features of the ordinance here challenged constitute an improper exercise of

police power and are arbitrary and unreasonable." United Advertising Corp. v. Metuchen , 35 N.J. 193, 196 (1961).

On April 17, 1962 Metuchen's zoning ordinance was amended and the following are its pertinent provisions:

"ARTICLE I

Section 2. Definitions

ADVERTISING SIGNS -- A sign which directs attention to a business, commodity, service or entertainment conducted, sold or offered elsewhere than on the lot where the sign is located.

ARTICLE ...


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