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Township of Jackson v. Allied Ordnance

Decided: February 7, 1978.


Allcorn, Morgan and Horn. The opinion of the court was delivered by Allcorn, P.J.A.D.


It is no longer open to question in this State that a license fee or tax may be imposed by a municipality for each space or pad occupied in a trailer camp or mobile home park, and that such fee or tax may be imposed for revenue, as well as for regulatory purposes. N.J.S.A. 40:52-1, 2; Nelson Cooney & Son, Inc. v. So. Harrison Tp. , 57 N.J. 384 (1971); Bellington v. East Windsor Tp. , 17 N.J. 558 (1955).

Founded upon the proposition that mobile homes sited in a mobile home park and their occupants require the widest range of community facilities and services -- essentially the same in nature and extent as those needed by dwellings permanently affixed to the land and their occupants; that such mobile homes do not contribute their fair share of the cost of local government which establishes, maintains and operates said facilities and services because of the lack of authority of local government to otherwise exact such contribution by way of personal property tax or of real property tax on an ad valorem basis, it is recognized that in the absence of a fair and equitable contribution toward the cost of local government by the mobile home owner the establishment and operation of a mobile home park thereby casts a unique burden or special impact upon the affected local government obligated to make available and to supply the facilities and services so required. Cooney, supra; Bellington, supra; Manhattan Trailer Ct. v. N. Bergen Tp. , 104 N.J. Super. 405 (App. Div. 1969); Note, "Towards an equitable and workable program of mobile home taxation," 71 Yale L.J. 702 (1962); Annotation, "Taxation as real estate of trailers or mobile homes," 86 A.L.R. 2d 277 (1962).

Thus it is that the Legislature in 1948 authorized municipalities to license and to regulate "trailer camps and camp sites," and to fix fees for such licenses "which may be imposed

for revenue," N.J.S.A. 40:52-1(d), N.J.S.A. 40:52-2. And our Supreme Court has upheld as valid space or pad fees imposed under the cited statutory authority, so long as the fee fixed is an appropriate sum commensurate with the obligation of the mobile home owner or occupant to pay his fair share of the cost of local government -- i.e. , a fee in the nature of an assessment equitably proportioned to the total annual revenues required to be raised by the local government for its total costs, including both current municipal and school operating expenses and capital costs, as well as its share of the county budget. As set forth in Bellington v. East Windsor Tp., supra:

The propriety of the sum of such equitable and just share of the cost of local government assessed by license charge may be measured (1) against the amount of the property tax levied for municipal, school and county purposes apportioned per capita among the residents of the municipality; (2) against the amount of tax which would be realized by applying the current tax rate to the average value of all trailers in the park, or (3) where the value of the specific services rendered to the trailers and their occupants of the park exceed their ad valorem or per capita share, against the value of such services. Cooney, supra , 57 N.J. at 394-395.

Defendant Allied Ordnance owns and operates a mobile home park within plaintiff municipality. The use of the park is restricted to mobile homes occupied by "senior citizens." During the year 1974, the only year for which complete figures were supplied, the park contained 258 trailer

pads, the trailers being occupied by 506 persons. The pad fee imposed by plaintiff was at the rate of $2.50 a week or an aggregate of $130 for the year, for each pad.*fn1 The pad fee subsequently was reduced (1975) and ultimately repealed (1976).

The record indicates that the amount received by the municipality from pad fees from the mobile home park during the year 1974 was $23,540. Defendant Allied Ordnance was also assessed and paid, for the year 1974, a real estate tax on the park land and improvements (roads, utility improvements, pads, etc.) in the sum of $28,738.85. In addition, the said park owner paid an annual park license fee of $600. The municipality thus received from the park in the aggregate, for the year 1974, the amount of $62,878.85, in the form of taxes and fees -- or $243.72 per pad (at 258 spaces) or $124.27 per capita (at 506 occupants).

The record further discloses that, for the year 1974, plaintiff municipality was required to raise the sum of $7,810,668.43 for all purposes, and that the total estimated population for that year was 21,000 persons, exclusive of the residents of mobile home parks.*fn2 This would average out to a per capita tax burden of $371.93 for each person resident within Jackson Township, not including the residents of mobile home parks.

It also appears that the average real estate taxes assessed for the year 1974 for homes valued at $10,000, $20,000 and $30,000 were $568, $947 and $1,325 respectively -- or at rates per $100 of valuation ranging from $5.68 to $4.73 to $4.42.*fn3 At oral argument counsel for ...

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