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Belleville Chamber of Commerce v. Town of Belleville

Decided: March 29, 1966.

BELLEVILLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
TOWN OF BELLEVILLE, DEFENDANT



Conklin, J.s.c.

Conklin

On November 23, 1964 the Municipal Council of the Town of Belleville adopted "An ordinance relating to the issuance of licenses and fees therefor with respect to certain businesses, occupations and activities of the Town of Belleville." The ordinance requires most commercial enterprises in Belleville to acquire a license before they may carry on a business. The license must be renewed annually.

In substance, plaintiffs challenge the ordinance on two grounds. First, they question the regulatory nature of the ordinance. Secondly, they challenge the size of the fees and the reasonableness of differentiations in various fees.

The authority for the ordinance is N.J.S.A. 40:52-1 and 40:52-2. Under these provisions the municipality may license numerous types of local businesses. The fees for the licenses may reasonably exceed the cost of administering the

licenses but the licensing ordinance cannot be enacted solely for revenue purposes. Solomon v. Jersey City, 12 N.J. 379 (1953). As the court there said:

"* * * [T]he primary and overriding purpose of the Legislature in enacting R.S. 40:52-1, N.J.S.A. and R.S. 40:52-2, N.J.S.A. was to authorize municipalities to license and regulate, as police measures for the public health, safety, morals or welfare, the local businesses described therein, and only incidentally to impose on the businesses thus licensed and regulated license fees for revenue which may, at least within reasonable limits, exceed the regulatory costs." (at p. 390)

Thus, to sustain the ordinance it is necessary to find initially a valid regulatory function. Section 11 recites the standards for review of license applications. It states:

"SECTION 11. Standards for Review of License Applications.

All licenses shall be approved by Resolution of the Municipal Council. The Council shall examine the qualifications of any applicant for a license or renewal thereof to determine if the said applicant or licensee would conduct the licensed activity in a lawful manner and in accordance with the general laws and statutes of the State and ordinances of the Town of Belleville and shall be guided in making its determination by the following factors which shall be the standards upon which the determination of the Council shall be based: --

(a) The Zoning Ordinance of the Town of Belleville.

(b) The Building Code.

(c) The Sanitary Code of the Town of ...


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