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Township of Cranford v. Errico

Decided: March 23, 1967.

TOWNSHIP OF CRANFORD, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
JOHN ERRICO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Kwalick, J.c.c.

Kwalick

Defendant appeals from a conviction of zoning law violations on complaint of John Ondish a private citizen. Defendant and Ondish respectively own and occupy adjacent properties in the same zoning district, defendant since 1950 and Ondish since 1965.

Section 1801 of the subject ordinance provides for enforcement by the municipal "building inspector known as the zoning officer." The right of the governing body to confer such authority derives from N.J.S.A. 40:55-47.

Each violation is punishable by a maximum fine of $200 or imprisonment for not more than 90 days or both. A single violation becomes several -- or many -- one for each day of continuance.

Defendant moved to dismiss on the ground that the municipal court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the complaint it having been made by an unauthorized person. The magistrate held a contrary view, adjudged defendant guilty and imposed a $200 fine.

Like motion is made in this de novo proceeding.

There is no showing that any governmental officer or agency authorized Ondish to lodge the complaint. He acted after the zoning officer and other municipal officials denied his requests to do so.

The desirability of committing enforcement of a zoning ordinance to the sole authority of a zoning officer who in this case is also the building inspector, commends itself.

His expertise with respect to all manner of construction, land and building uses, knowledge of building codes, zoning law and ordinances, ready access to and comprehension of official records and familiarity with the character and history of most if not all properties in the community, more fully qualify him than a layman to determine compliance or infraction. He instantly knows whether that which may appear to be, is not in fact a violation because sanctioned by a variance grant or pre-existing nonconforming use or by reason of other circumstances.

He notifies offending owners of violations, requesting compliance within a stated reasonable time. He will not, unless impelled by special circumstances, charge a separate offense for each day of a continuing violation.

Exclusive enforcement authority forestalls institution by others of unnecessary and unwarranted litigation which unduly burdens courts and harasses affected landowners.

Municipal officials have frequently but not uniformly dealt with the question. Counsel say there is no reported decision by the courts of our State which precisely meets and resolves the problem. This is confirmed by independent research. However, courts of sister states and ...


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