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Borough of Glassboro v. Vallorosi

Decided: March 17, 1987.


Edward S. Miller, J.s.c.


This case draws into question the validity of an ordinance of the Borough of Glassboro limiting the occupancy of single family dwellings to certain defined groups and further requires the Court to decide whether or not it inhibits a group of college students from occupying such a dwelling. Unfortunately, the ordinance in question had its origins in the traditional conflict between Town and Gown.

In the spring of 1986, Glassboro State College sponsored a "Spring Fling". The festivities were to last a weekend and consisted of a "beer bash" on campus. Unfortunately, the party that started on campus gradually spread to the nearby community; there was drunkenness, loud and abusive language, public urination and approximately 40 arrests were made. As a result of the community's reaction, the Borough of Glassboro amended its zoning ordinance to include the following definition of a family. Section 107-3 defines a family as:

FAMILY -- One or more persons occupying a dwelling unit as a single non-profit housekeeping unit, who are living together as a stable and permanent living

unit, being a traditional family unit or the functional equivalency thereof. [emphasis supplied.]

This new definition applies to all detached dwellings and structures located in R-2 residential districts; therefore, any group of people occupying a residential dwelling must fit into this definition. According to the amended ordinance, the purpose of the ordinance was to preserve the "family style living" and character of residential neighborhoods. In addition, the amendatory ordinance under Section 2-B stated:

Likewise, Glassboro State College maintains substantial dormitory and apartment facilities for students and faculty members. Therefore, ample housing exists within the Borough for college students and others who choose to live under arrangements which do not meet the definition of family as provided in this ordinance.

The amended ordinance was introduced and adopted on first reading at a public meeting on June 24, 1986. It was properly advertised and a public hearing was held on July 8, 1986. Although the ordinance had been referred to the local planning board, its report and recommendation had not yet been issued by July 8, 1986. Therefore, the ordinance was tabled at the conclusion of the public hearing. On July 21, 1986, the planning board issued its report recommending approval of the ordinance and, at the regular public hearing on July 22, 1986, the ordinance was adopted. However, because of some inadvertent oversight, the deputy borough clerk did not file a copy of the adopted amended ordinance with the county planning board until November 7, 1986.

The home, which is the center of this litigation, is located at 5 Normal Boulevard, Glassboro, in a residential zone. In the spring of 1986, the parents of Peter Vallorosi, a student at the college, decided to purchase the home to give their son and his friends a place to live. On June 25, 1986, Diane Vallorosi, Peter's sister, and Paul Sages, took title to the property. After the home was purchased, S & V Associates, a family partnership, located in Parsippany, New Jersey, became the landlord and was to collect the rents from the property. The partners in

S & V Associates were Aldo and Victoria Vallorosi, their daughters Diane and Donna Vallorosi, and Paul Sages.

S & V Associates entered into ten separate leases with ten Glassboro State College students. The leases were to run from semester to semester and could be renewed by each student at the end of the semester if the house was in order at the end of the first term.

The Borough of Glassboro also has a rental facilities ordinance (Chapter 90A of the Borough Code), which requires an application and license for rental facilities throughout Glassboro. By application dated August 28, 1986 and received in the Borough offices on September 4, 1986, defendants applied for a rental facilities license. No such license has been issued.

The ten students who now occupy the house began living there in late August or early September 1986. Plaintiff instituted suit claiming that the ten students did not meet the definition of a family; therefore, they were barred from living in a residential district. Further, plaintiff claimed defendants are in violation of the Borough's rental facilities ordinance in that they do not have a valid rental facilities license for the premises.

This case presents two issues: first, is the ordinance with its present definition of a family valid; and second, if it is valid, do the ten individuals constitute a "family"?

In addressing the first issue, both the United States Supreme Court and the courts of New Jersey have ruled on the validity of ordinances that restrict the number of persons who can live together in residential neighborhoods. Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1, 94 S. Ct. 1536, 39 L. Ed. 2d 797 (1974), involved an ordinance that restricted the use of one family dwellings to a family defined as:

One or more persons related by blood, adoption, or marriage, living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit, exclusive of household servants. A number of persons but not exceeding two (2) living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit though not related by blood, adoption, or marriage shall be deemed to constitute a family.

Six college students who were unrelated rented a house in the town and the owners were cited for violating the ordinance. The United States Supreme Court upheld the ordinance, ruling that the ordinance bore a "rational relationship to a permissible state objective." Also, the ordinance was a valid land use legislation addressed to family needs and did not violate any of the owners' or tenants' constitutional rights.

In Moore v. City of East Cleveland, Ohio, 431 U.S. 494, 97 S. Ct. 1932, 52 L. Ed. 2d 531 (1977), the municipality restricted the occupancy of dwelling units to a "single family"; the definitions of a family covering certain categories of related individuals. Plaintiff was living in her home with her son and two grandsons. The young boys were not brothers but were cousins. Because of her grandsons' relationship, plaintiff was charged with violation of the ordinance since her household did not fit the definition of a family. The Court held the ordinance invalid because it violated plaintiff's due process rights and cut too deeply into the family relationship. The Court distinguished Belle Terre, in that Belle Terre dealt with unrelated individuals and was a valid exercise of police power to promote family needs and family values. Consequently, an ordinance can be valid to regulate the number of unrelated individuals who may occupy a single family dwelling. However, it will be invalid if it intrudes on the relationship between family members.

In New Jersey, Kirsch Holding Co. v. Bor. of Manasquan, 59 N.J. 241 (1971), and Gabe Collins Realty, Inc. v. City of Margate, 112 N.J. Super. 341 (App.Div.1970), dealt with attempts by seashore communities to exclude group rentals of single family style houses. In both cases, the ordinances that defined a family were held to be invalid because they prohibited so many harmless dwelling uses that they were deemed to be sweepingly excessive and therefore legally unreasonable.

In Berger v. State, 71 N.J. 206 (1976), a home was conveyed as a gift to the New Jersey State Department of Institutions

and Agencies to be used for the care of disadvantaged preschool children. When the State intended to place eight to twelve multi-handicapped pre-school children in the home, the Township objected, claiming the children did not constitute a family according to its ordinance. The Court agreed with Belle Terre that a municipality has the authority to ...

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