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Hudson Circle Servicenter Inc. v. Town of Kearny

Decided: May 26, 1976.


For affirmance as modified -- Chief Justice Hughes, Justices Mountain, Sullivan, Pashman, Clifford and Schreiber and Judge Conford. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Pashman, J.


Plaintiff Hudson Circle Servicenter, Inc. instituted this action in lieu of prerogative writ to challenge an ordinance which was enacted by the Town of Kearny to regulate parking lots operated in conjunction with "truck stops."*fn1

The ordinance at the time of trial provided:

Section 1

1. The owner or operator of any public parking lot in the Town of Kearny used in conjunction with facilities catering principally

to truck traffic and known as 'truck stops', with a parking capacity in excess of 30 vehicles shall:

a. Enclose said parking lot with a fence of a minimum height of 7 feet;

b. Provide a supervised entrance and exit thereon with sufficient lighting to illuminate the entire parking area;

c. Provide a uniformed security guard who shall be in attendance at the parking lot at all times;

d. Pave and line said parking lot for parking purposes;

e. Maintain a registration system thereon which shall be made available to the police and fire departments of the Town of Kearny and which shall provide therein the following information:

1. Daily record of all motor vehicles parking in the area with registration and description of all motor vehicles;

2. Driver license number, state and name of the operators of said vehicles with time of entry and departure.

Section 2

Definition: Truck Stops -- Those facilities used by carriers primarily for temporary parking of trucks during transit, provided however that such definition shall not apply to service stations or diners.

In addition, Section 3 of the ordinance prohibited the operation of any public parking lot (as defined therein) which is not in conformity with the requirements of Section 1.*fn2 Section 4 provided for a $50 fine for the first offense and a $100 fine or 30 days in the county jail or both for each subsequent offense. Section 4A contained a severability clause and Section 5 provided that the ordinance should take effect immediately, although the parties agreed that pending the final outcome of this litigation, the town would not attempt to enforce the ordinance.

In a letter opinion dated April 14, 1972, the trial judge sustained the ordinance in all respects, except: (1) Section 1(b) was invalidated because it lacked sufficient standards and was "not definite enough to show what it intends to require or

prohibit"; (2) Section 1(c) was invalidated on the basis of our decision in Goldberg v. Housing Authority of Newark, 38 N.J. 578 (1962); (3) the paving requirement in Section 1(d) was deemed to be too costly and unreasonable, and (4) the lining requirement in Section 1(d), though found to be reasonable, was invalidated for lack of definite standards.

Both parties appealed. While the matter was pending unheard in the Appellate Division, the town again amended its ordinance and with consent of the parties the case was remanded to the trial court.*fn3

On remand, the court held that the amendments did not warrant a different ruling from that which previously concerned the owner's obligation to furnish a uniformed guard. However, the revised definitions of "sufficient lighting" and "line" were considered definite enough to overcome the deficiencies of vagueness and indefiniteness which had characterized those provisions.

The Appellate Division affirmed in an unreported opinion and we granted plaintiff's petition for certification and Kearny's cross-petition for certification. 68 N.J. 140 (1975).

Having carefully reviewed the record, we now affirm with certain modifications.

Plaintiff owns 20 acres of land in Kearny located along the Hackensack River near the Junction of U.S. No. 1 (Lincoln Highway) and Hackensack Avenue. This tract is adjacent to the approach to the Hackensack Bridge which spans the Hackensack River to Jersey City. The land is also divided from east to west by a strip of land known as the Scout Avenue Connector.

Plaintiff leases the tract to a firm known as Jersey Truck Center*fn4 which operates a truck facility on the premises (hereinafter "the Center"). The Center contains an office building, a truck scale, a truck washing operation, a lubritorium, a repair shop for minor repairs, a barbershop, a coffee room, a clothing store, a restaurant and a filling station with both gasoline and diesel fuel pumps. These facilities, almost all of which are located to the south of the Scout Avenue Connector, are open to the public. This area and the operations conducted thereon are not affected by the ordinance.

The remainder of plaintiff's land, which consists of 10 or 11 acres located north of the Scout Avenue Connector, is utilized by Jersey Truck Center as a parking lot. It is this area which is subject to the provisions of the ordinance. Unlike the other services which are provided at the Center, the parking lot is not a public facility -- a fact which is announced by a sign at its entrance. Instead, the lot is intended for the exclusive use of approximately 30 national trucking firms who are subtenants of Jersey Truck Center and who are provided office accommodations in the main building. Each subtenant has the right to park its tractor trailers on the lot and use the other facilities at the Center. The purpose of this arrangement is to provide these trucking companies with

an auxiliary office in the New York Metropolitan area. From this location, they can arrange return loads, reroute vehicles while in transit, periodically service their equipment and provide a temporary haven for their truck drivers.

There are no facilities for overnight lodging at the Center. Ordinarily, when a truck driver uses the Center as a stopping-point, he will sleep at a nearby motel. However, drivers do occasionally stay at the Center overnight by sleeping in the lodging compartments of their truck cabs.

The lot itself, which provides parking space for approximately 200 tractor trailers, is unpaved and becomes muddy when soaked by rain. As a result, it is rutted from the constant passage of heavy trucks. For these reasons, it is difficult to establish and maintain a clear parking scheme by means of lines or markers, despite the efforts of Jersey Truck Center to do so. Although the lot does not have a fence, railroad ties have been used to delineate its perimeter. The only means of gaining vehicular access to the lot is to turn from Hackensack Avenue onto the Scout Avenue Connector and from there onto a dirt path which enters the lot. No parking fees are collected at the entrance and no attendants are on duty there. Consequently, access to and egress from the lot is unsupervised.

Defendant municipality contends that its ordinance is a justified response to problems which the town has incurred from plaintiff's operation. As proof of its contention, the municipality presented the original record books of the Kearny Police and Fire Departments. These books list all the reported incidents allegedly occurring on or near the Center's parking lot between June 18, 1968 and December 25, 1971.*fn5 Because the town stipulated that there was no wrongdoing

directly attributable to plaintiff, the evidence concerning these incidents was introduced solely to illustrate the problems encountered by law enforcement officials in the area. It was not proffered to establish criminal responsibility for the incidents themselves. We have reviewed these records and find that they report substantial illegal activity in this area during the relevant time period.

Specifically, there were at least 34 reports of trailers or tractor trailer combinations having been stolen from the lot. Many of these units were also loaded with merchandise. A large number of the thefts occurred while the vehicles were parked in the lot for a weekend or overnight.

During the same time period, there were 11 reported thefts from tractors or trailers parked in the lot. In addition, there were 25 reports from Center subtenants that tires, tire rims, doors, license plates and other equipment had been removed from their trucks. Apparently, only three arrests resulted from all these various reports.

Also during this period, eight tractor trailers which had been hijacked elsewhere were abandoned on the lot. Four other stolen vehicles were discovered outside the parking area but within its immediate vicinity. Six collisions in the lot were reported during this period, but on at least two of these occasions the responsible individual departed without identifying himself. Police records also reveal that five major altercations either occurred in the parking area or involved trucking personnel outside of the lot. In addition, there were approximately 18 accidental injuries to truck drivers who were using the facility.

Several armed robberies also occurred on the premises. On one occasion a truck driver was accosted and robbed while he was walking through the lot. At another time, a driver was robbed as he sat in the cab of his own truck. At least three additional armed robberies were reported. On three separate occasions, adolescent runaways, both male and female, were found at the Center and, on another date, a fugitive from justice was apprehended there.

Women were arrested on charges of prostitution or for being present at the lot without giving a good account of themselves on 16 different occasions. Several were observed soliciting from truck to truck. At least three of these women possessed narcotics or narcotics paraphernalia at the time of their arrests. In conjunction with these charges, one male was arrested for transporting women for purposes of prostitution and a report was filed with the police that truck drivers were being annoyed by pimps.

The Fire Department records indicate that fire apparatus responded to approximately 18 rubbish fires at or near the lot during this period. In addition, one reported fire of suspicious origin caused extensive damage to a tractor trailer. The frequency and serious nature of these reported incidents are clearly probative of the problems associated with this ...

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