On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Morris County, Municipal Appeal No. 09-033.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Fuentes, Ashrafi and Nugent.
Defendant Waste Management, Inc. appeals from its conviction, rendered at the conclusion of a Law Division trial de novo, of collecting garbage at 6:37 a.m. in violation of a Township of East Hanover (the Township) ordinance that limits solid waste collection to the hours of noon to 5:00 p.m.
Defendant presents two arguments: (1) "[t]he Law Division court committed legal error in affirming [defendant]'s conviction and misapplied the rules of statutory construction in finding that the East Hanover ordinance was proper"; and (2) the ordinance is unconstitutional.
The ordinance's time-of-day restrictions regulate in the State-preempted field of solid waste management. Carmine Forgione & Sons, Inc. v. Twp. of Bernards, 322 N.J. Super. 448, 451 (App. Div. 1999). Although the State has delegated to municipalities the authority to restrict solid waste collection to specified operating hours in order to preserve the peace and quiet in neighborhoods during the hours when most residents are asleep, the Township ordinance, on its face, exceeds that authority. We thus conclude that defendant was convicted of violating an invalid ordinance and we reverse the conviction.
The facts are uncontested. Chapter 207 of the Township Code regulates the collection of solid waste. Section 207-3C(1) limits the hours for collection of solid waste:
Within the B-2 Highway Business Zone as set forth in Chapter 95 of the Code of the Township of East Hanover and as delineated on the Official Zoning Map of the Township, such collection services shall be limited to the hours of noon to 5 p.m. unless waiver therefrom has been granted by the Township Council following application by the responsible solid waste generator and a public hearing thereon.
Defendant's business includes collecting garbage and other solid waste. The tariff*fn1 defendant filed with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection states that defendant shall "pick up waste between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. throughout the year 6 days per week." On June 18, 2009, one of defendant's employees was issued a summons for violating the ordinance by picking up solid waste at 6:37 a.m. in the B-2 zone. Defendant was convicted of the violation in the Township of East Hanover Municipal Court and appealed to the Law Division. At the de novo trial, defendant argued both that the ordinance is an invalid exercise of statutorily delegated authority because it does not restrict waste collection to hours when most residents are asleep, and that it is unconstitutional. The Law Division did not address the first argument, rejected the second argument, convicted defendant, imposed a $100 penalty, and assessed $33 in court costs. This appeal followed.
When reviewing a trial court's decision, we generally defer to the court's findings of fact, but the "trial court's interpretation of the law and the legal consequences that flow from established facts are not entitled to any special deference." Manalapan Realty, L.P. v. Twp. Comm. of Manalapan, 140 N.J. 366, 378 (1995). Accordingly, review of defendant's challenge to the ...