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Spring Lake Hotel and Guest House Association v. Borough of Spring Lake

Decided: March 5, 1985.


On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County.

King, Deighan and Bilder. The opinion of the court was delivered King, P.J.A.D.


[199 NJSuper Page 203] The plaintiffs are an association representing 28 hotel and guest-house keepers of the Borough of Spring Lake and six individual residents and tax paying members of the association. In this law suit they attack a Borough Ordinance dating from 1948 which prohibits all on-street parking, with a few exceptions, between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. They also contend that even if the ordinance is a valid exercise of the police power, the Borough's past course of conduct should estop enforcement of the ordinance against guests of local hoteliers who park on the street overnight. We conclude that the adoption of the ordinance was a valid exercise of the police power and that the enforcement of the ordinance is not estopped by the Borough's pattern of extending courtesy against enforcement in the past

to the hoteliers' guests. We affirm the judgment in favor of the defendant Borough and Council, substantially for the reasons expressed in the able opinion of Judge Milberg given orally on August 7, 1984. We also dissolve the pending stay against enforcement of the ordinance.

The Borough of Spring Lake was described by the judge as "an upper-middle-class suburban residential community of approximately 2.1 miles, consisting of 27 blocks, north to south, and 1.5 miles, consisting of six blocks, east to west." Spring Lake is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east, the New York and Long Branch Railroad on the west, the Boroughs of Belmar and South Belmar on the north, and the Borough of Sea Girt on the south. The permanent population is about 4,200; the summer population is about 7,500. The land use distribution is

46% -- single-family detached residential

27.6% -- public, quasi-public and lakes

20% -- street network

2% -- commercial

3% -- hotels and guest houses

1.4% -- vacant land.

The 35 hotels and guest houses in Spring Lake are pre-existing nonconforming uses not permitted by the current zoning ordinance. About half of these 35 establishments are open all year; the rest are open only during the summer season, Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Spring Lake has had the ban on overnight parking on the books since 1949. The Borough had enforced the ordinance against violators but also maintained a courtesy system which allowed hotel managers to call the police with the license numbers of guests' cars which could not be accommodated on the hotel premises. These cars were not ticketed. The courtesy system developed over the years because there were more cars than could be accommodated by the off-street parking facilities of some hotels and guest houses. The courtesy system was abolished in July 1983. This law suit ensued.

The original 1949 ordinance prohibited parking overnight (from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.) everywhere in town except for one block on Morris Street and an area next to the railroad station. Additional on-street over-night parking was provided by Ordinance 10 of 1978 which permitted parking for up to 72 hours, from June 15 through September 15, on a substantial portion of Ocean Avenue. Still more seasonal parking from June through September was provided by Ordinances 6 and 12 of 1984. These spaces were on the east side of Ocean Avenue and along the "Triangle" across from the Shoreham, one of the biggest hotels (108 rooms). These two amendments provided 716 additional on-street overnight parking spaces.

The courtesy system ended following notice on the July 4th weekend of 1984 when about 100 tickets were issued. The record suggests that borough residents complained of lack of enforcement. The judge found that

The number of cars belonging to the guests of the hotel and guest houses increased to sufficient magnitude that complaints were lodged by Borough residents with the police, seeking enforcement of the parking restrictions.

An acute exacerbating factor was the increase in the number of cars using the courtesy system by about 60 per night when the Shoreham Hotel lost the access to the church parking lot which it had ...

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