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General Roofing Co. v. Borough of Belmar

Decided: December 20, 1962.

GENERAL ROOFING COMPANY, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
BOROUGH OF BELMAR, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Goldmann, Freund and Foley. The opinion of the court was delivered by Freund, J.A.D.

Freund

This is an action in lieu of prerogative writs brought to compel the Borough of Belmar (Belmar) to issue a permit to plaintiff, a roofing contractor licensed at its principal place of business in Neptune Township, to perform roofing work in Belmar.

Previous to this action, plaintiff's application for permits to do roofing work in Belmar had been denied on the ground

that it had failed to obtain, as a condition precedent, a mercantile business license pursuant to Belmar Ordinance No. 465. The license fee would have been $25 a year.

Defendant appeals from a final judgment of the Superior Court, Law Division, which held that the ordinance "is invalid insofar as the same required the plaintiff to apply for and obtain a mercantile license in order to conduct business within the Borough of Belmar." The court ordered the borough license inspector to cease withholding "any building permits from plaintiff because plaintiff does not have a mercantile license."

Section 201 of Ordinance No. 465 forbids the unlicensed conduct of "any business as defined in this ordinance." Business is defined in Section 101 as "all kinds of vocations, occupations, professions, enterprises, establishments, and all other kinds of activities and matters, * * * any of which are conducted for private profit, or benefit, * * * on any premises in the Borough of Belmar, as set forth in [ N.J.S.A. ] 40:52-1." That statute contains 12 separate provisions relating to various activities which a municipality may license and regulate. The statute makes no mention of a roofer or a roofing contractor. Its only provision which may be pertinent to this case is N.J.S.A. 40:52-1(g), which permits municipal licensing of the following enterprises:

"Lumber and coal yards, stores for the sale of meats, groceries and provisions, dry goods and merchandise, and goods and chattels of every kind, and all other kinds of business conducted in the municipality other than herein mentioned, and the places and premises in or at which the business is conducted and carried on; street stands for the sale or distribution of newspapers, magazines, periodicals, books, and goods and merchandise or other articles." (Emphasis added)

Defendant borough concedes that Ordinance No. 465 was adopted under and by virtue of N.J.S.A. 40:52-1.

The sole question presented on this appeal is whether the phrase "all other kinds of business" is to be interpreted liberally or to be limited to activities analogous to those specifically

enumerated in subsection (g). The trial court held that the only subsection that could possibly encompass plaintiff's activity was (g), that (g) is limited to local businesses comparable in type to those enumerated therein, and that the rule of ejusdem generis applied to limit the scope of the general phrase "all other kinds of business." Ejusdem generis may be applied to general words used in conjunction with words of specific meaning to limit them to the class expressly mentioned. Cf. Denbo v. Moorestown Twp. , 23 N.J. 476, 482 (1957); Abeles v. Adams Engineering Co., Inc. , 64 N.J. Super. 167, 176 (App. Div. 1960), modified 35 N.J. 411 (1961).

As noted, businesses enumerated in N.J.S.A. 40:52-1(g) include certain specific activities such as lumber and coal yards and retail outlets which sell meats, groceries, dry goods, merchandise, and newspapers. It is axiomatic that every word, clause, or sentence of a statute is to be given effect. Constructions are to be avoided which render any part of a statute inoperative, superfluous, void or insignificant. State by Richman v. Sperry & Hutchinson Co. , 23 N.J. 38, 46 (1956); In re Application of Lamb , 67 N.J. Super. 39, 61 (App. Div.), affirmed 34 N.J. 448 (1961); Reinauer Realty Corp. v. Nucera , 59 N.J. Super. 189, 199 (App. Div.), certif. denied 32 N.J. 347 ...


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