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Belleville Chamber of Commerce v. Town of Belleville

Decided: January 13, 1967.

BELLEVILLE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
TOWN OF BELLEVILLE, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Gaulkin, Lewis and Labrecque. The opinion of the court was delivered by Gaulkin, S.j.a.d.

Gaulkin

Plaintiffs are Belleville Chamber of Commerce (hereafter the Chamber) and the owners of a number of businesses located in Belleville. Their complaint in lieu of prerogative writs challenged the validity of a 1964 ordinance which provided for the licensing of numerous types of businesses and fixed fees therefor. In the alternative, the complaint asserted that even if the ordinance was basically valid, the fees were unreasonable and discriminatory.

The trial judge rendered an opinion which is reported in 91 N.J. Super. 32 (Law Div. 1966). Pursuant thereto, he entered judgment that the ordinance was basically valid "and shall remain in effect," but that section 19 thereof, which fixed the fees, was "unreasonable and invalid," and that the ordinance was totally inapplicable to automobile dealers, automobile service stations and coal dealers because they "are licensed pursuant to State statutes * * *." The balance of the judgment is not material to the issues before us.

The Defendant town appeals. There is no cross-appeal. Hence we deal only with the above portions of the judgment and with only those parts of the trial judge's opinion which relate thereto.

Section 10 of the ordinance provided:

"The Issuing Officer, shall prior to referring any application to the Municipal Council request a report from the Chief of Police, which report shall contain information as to whether:

(a) The conduct of the subject matter of licensing, or proposed conduct thereof, would be injurious to public safety or morals.

(b) The facility creates or will create unreasonable interference with traffic.

(c) The facility by reason of the nature of its operation, attracts undesirable persons and causes congregations giving rise to commission of criminal offenses, disorderly persons act offenses, acts of juvenile delinquency, or municipal ordinance violations on or about the premises or activity licensed.

The Chief of Police shall thereupon report the same in writing with the grounds therefor and his recommendations.

The Issuing Officer shall also request the Building Inspector to inform him of the Zoning requirements in any area in which a licensed business is to be conducted.

Where the processing or handling of food is the subject of the business to be licensed the Issuing Officer shall request a report from the Health Officer.

A report shall also be obtained from the Fire Chief as to whether or not any premises utilized in any licensed business meet the requirements of the Fire Prevention Code."

The ordinance said that the "Issuing Officer" shall mean the person designated to accept applications and collect fees.

Section 11 of the ordinance provided:

"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 Belleville.

(d) Any and all general laws and public health statutes, and codes of the State of New Jersey ...


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