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State v. Boston Juvenile Shoes

Decided: March 6, 1972.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY (TOWNSHIP OF WILLINGBORO), PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BOSTON JUVENILE SHOES, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT



For modification -- Chief Justice Weintraub and Justices Jacobs, Francis, Proctor, Hall, Schettino and Mountain. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Schettino, J.

Schettino

Defendant was convicted in the Township of Willingboro Municipal Court of violating a township ordinance requiring payment of an annual licensing fee for each sign displayed in specified commercial zones. Fined $25 plus $5 costs, defendant appealed to the Burlington County Court. After its de novo consideration of the matter, the court upheld the conviction and imposed the identical penalty. The Appellate Division reversed, State of New Jersey (Township of Willingboro) v. Boston Juvenile Shoes, 113 N.J. Super. 258 (App. Div. 1971). We granted certification. 58 N.J. 329 (1971).

Defendant operates a retail juvenile shoe store in Willingboro Plaza, a large shopping center. Although the record lacks perfect clarity, it seems that three types of signs exhibited by defendant prompted this controversy:

(1) A permanent, electrically illuminated sign bearing the designation "Stride-Rite Shoes." Shoppers continuously

walk under this sign, that is suspended from a canopy covering a walkway in front of the store.

(2) A permanent sign, painted on the inside of a clear glass door, which reads, "Boston Juvenile Shoes, Stride-Rite Shoes."

(3) One or two signs that apparently existed only during 1967, fastened inside the store window during certain months to advertise a sale.

Chapter 17 of the Willingboro Ordinances governs the displaying of signs. The measure defines the sign types allowable for various districts and purposes. It imposes a permit requirement with a $10 application fee for most signs and an additional $5 annual licensing fee for signs displayable in business or industrial zones. There are various restrictions, including one that requires commercial signs to relate directly to business activities conducted on the premises and another which limits the extent to which signs may cover building window space. Where any sign menaces the health, safety, morals or general welfare of the community, the township manager shall order remedial measures.

The Willingboro building inspector provided the only testimony during the county court proceeding. He indicated that defendant had obtained a permit for the signs displayed during 1967 and 1968. However, the annual license fees required by the ordinance were paid for neither year.

Since the Appellate Division could find no statutory delegation of power to support the provisions of the ordinance, it reversed the conviction. The court rejected the township's assertion that N.J.S.A. 40:69A-29, 30, two Faulkner Act provisions specifically relied upon to support the ordinance, provide authorization for the enactment.

Because the Faulkner Act guarantees to municipalities which select an optional governmental structure under its terms the municipal powers delegated generally by other enactments, see N.J.S.A. 40:69A-26, 28, this case could be decided without delineating the ambit of the ...


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