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Thanet Corp. v. Board of Adjustment of Township of Princeton

Decided: January 9, 1969.

THANET CORPORATION, A CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE BOARD OF ADJUSTMENT OF THE TOWNSHIP OF PRINCETON, W. JOSEPH SHINN, BUILDING INSPECTOR OF THE TOWNSHIP OF PRINCETON AND THE TOWNSHIP COMMITTEE OF THE TOWNSHIP OF PRINCETON, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS



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

Bennett

On April 4, 1967 plaintiff Thanet Corporation executed an assignable ground lease agreement between it, as lessor, and the United States of America, acting through the Post Office Department, as lessee. The lease was for the establishment of a postoffice for a 20-year term, renewable for a maximum of seven successive five-year terms at the option of the Post Office. The land is located in the Engineering Research District (ENG) of Princeton Township.

In June and July of 1967 plaintiff filed two alternative applications with defendant board of adjustment which sought (1.) a special permit, or (2.) a (d) variance, and, in both cases, a (c) variance from the lot width requirements. On September 7, 1967 defendant board denied the applications but took no action as to the (c) variance.

On October 20, 1967 plaintiff brought an action in lieu of prerogative writs against the board of adjustment, the building inspector, and the Princeton Township Committee. On December 1, 1967, plaintiff filed an amended complaint which sought by its first count a reversal of defendant board and the building inspector in denying the application for a (c) variance, and, in the alternative, a (d) variance or special permit for the establishment of a postoffice. The second count sought a declaration that the establishment of the general postoffice will, for so long as said tract is actually used by the U.S. Post Office Department or its assignee as a general postoffice facility, be immune from and not subject to any of the zoning ordinances of Princeton Township.

Both the plaintiff and defendant township committee have moved for summary judgment.

On August 8, 1968 the United States of America, through the Post Office Department, signed the lease and addendum.

The first issue presented is whether or not the establishment of a postoffice facility is immune from the zoning ordinances and regulations of Princeton Township. Furthermore, if the Government is clothed with immunity, does it extend to its leases with private individuals or corporations?

It is to be noted that if the two foregoing issues are answered in the affirmative, it renders moot the propriety of the actions by the board of adjustment, the building inspector and the township committee.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution provides that "the Congress shall have power * * * to establish Post Offices * * *."

Pursuant to this, Congress adopted Title 39 of the U.S. Code which establishes the Post Office Department, with the Postmaster General at its head, and authorizes him to establish such postoffices as he deems necessary. 39 U.S.C., § 701 et seq. Chapter 23 of Title 39 gives the Postmaster General authority to acquire property and, in particular,

39 U.S.C., §§ 2102 and 2103 authorize the Postmaster General to lease property for postoffices for a term not to exceed 20 years. No provision of Title 39 provides that the use of any property for a postoffice, whether leased or owned, must comply ...


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