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Township of Little Falls v. Husni

Decided: January 30, 1976.


Matthews, Lora and Morgan.

Per Curiam

Defendant was convicted in municipal court and subsequently in County Court after a trial de novo on the record, of violating a municipal ordinance by operating a self-service laundry between the hours of midnight and 7 A.M. without an attendant on duty. It is undisputed that defendant violated the ordinance. The issue is whether the ordinance is reasonably related to the public health and safety or whether it is arbitrary and oppressive and not within the domain of the the police power.

Ordinance 7-9 of the Township of Little Falls, entitled "An Ordinance to License and Regulate the Operation of Self-Service Laundries, and to Prescribe Penalties for Violations," is comprised of nine sections, some of which establish a licensing scheme for self-service laundries (hereafter laundromats). Section five deals only with regulation of laundromats and is divided into eleven subsections. The subsection here in issue provides:

h. No self-service laundry shall be open for business between the hours of 12:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. but machines started before 12:00 P.M. need not be stopped until the operation is completed, provided that a self-service laundry may remain open between the hours of 12:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M. if an attendant is on continuous duty during those hours.

Defendant first contends that N.J.S.A. 40:52-1 (the licensing statute) does not authorize a municipality to enact an ordinance licensing and regulating the operation of self-service laundries and that since the licensing provisions of the ordinance are inseparable from the regulatory provisions thereof, the ordinance in its entirety is invalid.

Without in any way implying or passing upon the validity of the licensing provisions we reject defendant's contention that they are so intimately related to the regulatory provisions that both must stand or fall together. The test of total invalidity was set forth in Gross v. Allan , 37 N.J. Super. 262 (App. Div. 1955):

The question of severability of the invalid provision is one both of legislative intent, Yanow v. Seven Oaks Park, Inc. , 11 N.J. 341, 361, 36 A.L.R. 2d 639 (1953), and of whether the remaining provisions are functionally self-sufficient as containing the essentials of a complete enactment, Schait v. Senior , 97 N.J.L. 390, 393 (Sup. Ct. 1922). The two criteria must coexist. [at 269]

The regulations make no reference to "license" or "licensee" but constitute a separate, complete and intelligible unit. Contrast Tagmire v. Atlantic City , 35 N.J. Super. 11 (App. Div. 1955); Tillberg v. Kearny Tp. , 103 N.J. Super. 324 (Law Div. 1968) and Mister Softee v. Hoboken Mayor and Council , 77 N.J. Super. 354 (Law Div. 1962). We can find no legislative intent that the licensing and regulatory provisions be considered as an inseparable unit. Rather, the structure of the ordinance, when coupled with the general severance provision in the Revised General Ordinances of Little Falls (ยง 1.4) shows a legislative intent to preserve any portion of the ordinance that is not invalid and permits exercise of the preference in favor of severability. See Affiliated Distillers Brands Corp. v. Sills , 56 N.J. 251, 265 (1970); Angermeier v. Sea Girt , 27 N.J. 298, 311 (1958). Defendant was not charged with a violation of the licensing provisions and, in fact, he has apparently complied with them. Even assuming the invalidity of those provisions it

would, in view of our determination on severability, be improper to invalidate the regulatory provisions on that basis. Economy Ent., Inc. v. Manapalan Tp. Comm. , 104 N.J. Super. 373, 377-378 (App. Div. 1969).

We find it unnecessary to pass upon defendant's contention that regulation of laundromats is not within the ambit of N.J.S.A. 40:52-1(g)*fn1 and we will assume for present purposes only that the rule of ejusdem generis bars application of the statute to laundromats. See Salomon v. Jersey City , 12 N.J. 379, 388-389 (1953), and compare Absecon v. Vettese , 13 N.J. 581, 587-588 (1953); General Roofing Co. v. Belmar , 77 N.J. Super. 469, 471-476 (App. Div. 1962) and Coast Cigarette Sales v. Long Branch Mayor & Council , 121 N.J. Super. 439, 449 (Law Div. 1972).

However, we are satisfied that even if authority to regulate laundromats cannot be found within N.J.S.A. 40:52-1(g) such authority exists as an attribute of the general police power pursuant to N.J.S.A. 40:48-2. Although our research reveals no reported New Jersey decision which specifically holds that laundromats may be regulated under N.J.S.A. 40:48-2, the broad interpretation our courts have given to the general police power and the wide variety of situations in which it has been held applicable (see, e.g. Justice Pashman's partial listing of these situations in his dissent in ...

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