Borough of Saddle River ex rel. Perrin v. Bobinski

Citation259 A.2d 727,108 N.J.Super. 6
PartiesThe BOROUGH OF SADDLE RIVER, a Municipal Corporation of New Jersey ex rel. Louis H. PERRIN, Building Inspector and Zoning Officer, Plaintiffs, v. John A. BOBINSKI, Defendant.
Decision Date05 December 1969
CourtSuperior Court of New Jersey

Evans, Hand, Allabough & Amoresano, Paterson, for plaintiffs (Peter Vandervoort, Paterson, appearing).

Lester H. Fox, Hackensack, for defendant.


This is an action for permanent injunction against the use of a structure located on defendant's premises for the stabling of horses. Plaintiff contends that such use is in contravention of the terms and provisions of the zoning ordinance of the Borough of Saddle River. Defendant, on the other hand, contends that such use is permissible as a nonconforming use.

The building in question, which is on defendant's 9--10-acre plot, is a barn situated approximately 5 feet from the easterly boundary line of said property, 240 feet from the house of the nearest neighbor and 400 feet back from the public road. It is 35 feet high, 66 feet wide and has a shed attached to the rear, the combined buildings being 65 feet deep.

The premises were purchased by defendant John Bobinski from Karl and Jane Manz in October 1967, in response to a newspaper advertisement that featured 'a fine barn for stable horses.'

Manz had acquired the property in 1916 and resided there with his wife and children for 41 years until the sale in 1967. In the earlier years Manz put the premises to farming use, raising certain crops and berries and as many as 1,700 chickens whose eggs he sold to a Paterson market. He kept a cow and seven or eight farm horses, stabling five in the barn's stalls and two or three in the attached shed along with related farm equipment.

Gradually, Manz cut down on his farming and, due to the consequential lack of need, disposed of the horses, the last one in 1940. From that time on the premises were not used for commercial farming although Manz, who took a position in the post office, continued to spray and care for many apple trees and maintained a small half-acre garden for family use. The barn structure was not put to use for any purpose during the period 1940 to 1967, and no horses or other animals were stalled therein. Nevertheless, he continued to spend money on the structure by painting it and keeping it in otherwise good shape and repair so that the barn was 'exactly the same when sold' to defendant.

The court finds that despite the lack of use of the barn-stable for 27 years, the Manzes had no affirmative subjective intent to abandon the use of the structure for stabling horses. On the contrary, they often discussed the purchase of a horse for their daughter, albeit such purchase was repeatedly postponed because of her unwillingness to commit herself to take proper care of the animal. A real estate broker's inquiry as to whether they were interested in stabling four horses for a time was rejected only because it would be too much trouble for them.

Then, too, the Manzes always thought they could keep horses in the barn at any time they decided to resume doing so; that they had the right to keep horses there any time they wanted to, and they never intended to give up that right. As a matter of fact, long before 1940 when Manz began some mechanizing of his farm operations, he built a separate garage for his motor vehicles and motorized farm equipment rather than use or convert the barn for such storage. Pursuant to such understanding and intent, they represented to defendant that he would be able to keep nine horses in the stable and shed structure in accordance with the borough ordinance which permitted keeping one horse per acre.

It is clear that defendant purchased the property solely because of the barn and the anticipated use thereof for stabling his show horses and trotters and pacers.

Effective January 1, 1963 plaintiff borough adopted a codification of ordinances and effective August 7, 1965 adopted ordinance No. 134, so that in October 1967, when defendant acquired this property, classified as R--1, residential, horses were permitted to be maintained on such property provided the number did not exceed one horse per acre and they were housed in a structure not exceeding 20 feet in height and located at least 85 feet from any property line.

Section 8:11--1(v) of the ordinance reads that 'it shall be prima facie evidence that a nonconforming use has been abandoned when there has been a cessation of the exercise of such nonconforming use for a period of one (1) year,' and thus creates a presumption of abandonment of a nonconforming use after a one-year lapse without such use.

Shortly after acquisition defendant made some repairs and commenced using the barn to stable horses. Plaintiff contends this is in contravention of the borough's zoning laws since the barn is less than 85 feet from any property line. Upon notification, defendant did not seek a building permit or a variance but merely ceased the repair of the structure and continued to use it as a stable.

A municipal court complaint was filed and on August 1, 1968 the judge of that court found defendant not guilty on the ground that the nonconforming use as a stable was a preexisting nonconforming use, which use had not been abandoned. However, a fine was imposed for failure to apply for a building permit prior to commencing repair work.

Defendant contends the disposition in the municipal court constitutes Res judicata and, in any event that the use of the stable is protected by N.J.S.A. 40:55--48 as a preexisting nonconforming use which has never been abandoned. It is plaintiff's position that a municipal court acquittal of a charge of violating a zoning ordinance is not a bar to a civil action seeking an injunction against the violation of the same ordinance; that nonconforming uses not in actual use at the time of the effective date of a zoning ordinance are violations of that law and may not be continued, and that the failure to employ the structure as a barnstable for a period of 25 years constitutes an abandonment of such use--that some affirmative action is required to preserve a nonconforming use, not just an intent to preserve the right to so use the property.

It has been held in New Jersey that a municipal court action charging an ordinance violation is, procedurally at least, and within the intendment of the rules providing for appeals from judgments of conviction in the inferior courts of limited jurisdiction to County Court, essentially criminal in nature, irrespective of whether the penal section of the ordinance provides for a fine only or for both fine and imprisonment, and even though such violation does not constitute an indictable offense. State v. Yaccarino, 3 N.J. 291, 295, 70 A.2d 84 (1949); Newark v. Pulverman, 12 N.J. 105, 114, 95 A.2d 889 (1953). The doctrine of Res judicata bars a subsequent suit between the same parties and involving the same cause of action. Nevertheless, the application of this doctrine is analyzed as follows in Moore, Federal Practice, § 0.418(1), at 2703:

The generally accepted rule is that, because a defendant is surrounded by greater safeguards in criminal than in civil litigation, and the standard of proof to which the complainant is held is higher, a judgment of conviction is conclusive in civil litigation between the same parties as to issues that were litigated and adjudicated in the criminal prosecution. But as to a judgment of acquittal this same difference in standards of proof has led to the rule that An acquittal concludes no issues as to civil liability in favor of the acquitted defendant. The theory underlying this rule is that the proof offered by the prosecution in a criminal case, although insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and thus support a conviction, might well be sufficient to support a judgment of civil liability.

See also 18 A.L.R.2d 1315 (1951).

This rule has been applied by the United States Supreme Court in Helvering v. Mitchell, 303 U.S. 391, 397, 58 S.Ct. 630, 82 L.Ed. 917 (1938), in which an acquittal of a charge of income tax evasion was held not to bar a subsequent action to recover an added assessment for income tax deficiency. Likewise, in United States v. United States Gypsum Co., 51 F.Supp. 613 (D.D.C.1943), an acquittal of a charge of conspiracy to monopolize was held not to be Res judicata in a subsequent action by the Government to enjoin the alleged monopolistic practices.

An interesting New Jersey case discussing these problems is State v. La Bella, 88 N.J.Super. 330, 212 A.2d 192 (Cty.Ct.1965), which involved an action to return money seized by law enforcement authorities in connection with a gambling arrest subsequent to an acquittal on the gambling charge. There is was held that the previous acquittal barred relitigation of the question of the existence of the gambling operation in the subsequent action wherein the State sought to rely on the statutory provisions for forfeiture of the seized monies. Judge Conklin distinguished Helvering, supra, relying on Coffey v. United States, 116 U.S. 436, 6 S.Ct. 437, 29 L.Ed. 684 (1886), and Mitchell v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 89 F.2d 873 (2 Cir. 1937), citing the following language in Mitchell:

The only rule necessarily derivable from Coffey v. United States would seem to be that an acquittal in a criminal prosecution is a bar to a Civil action to enforce fines or forfeitures of property which are in their nature criminal penalties. Though this rule seems hard to justify in view of the different degrees of proof required in order to establish criminal guilt and civil responsibility, it is implicit in the decision of Coffey v. United States which is binding on us in the absence of a modification by the Supreme Court.

The Court in La Bella (at 340, of 88 N.J.Super., at 198 of 212 A.2d) found such reasoning to be conclusive in view of the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
13 cases
  • Polk County v. Martin, 26351
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Oregon
    • December 2, 1981
    ...293 (1938) (junk shop empty and unused for several years prior to enactment of zoning ordinance); Borough of Saddle River v. Bobinski, 108 N.J.Super. 6, 259 A.2d 727 (1969) (stabling of horses permitted in barn even though the barn was not used for any purpose for 27 years); Peacock Twp. v.......
  • Villari v. Zoning Bd. of Adjustment of Deptford
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
    • November 15, 1994
    ...neither claims nor retains any interest in the subject matter of the abandonment.' " Ibid. (quoting Borough of Saddle River v. Bobinski, 108 N.J.Super. 6, 16-17, 259 A.2d 727 (Ch.Div.1969)). However, we have recently recognized that "a nonconforming use or structure may be terminated based ......
  • Dandy Co., Inc. v. Civil City of South Bend, County-City Complex, COUNTY-CITY
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • March 27, 1980 use of a barn as a stable was suspended prior to passage of the zoning ordinance in Borough of Saddle River v. Bobinski (1969), 108 N.J.Super. 6, 259 A.2d 727. It was held that where there has been a suspension of an actual use as opposed to a mere intention of future use, there is a......
  • Andrew v. King County, 5685-I
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • October 16, 1978
    ...or discontinued, however, the right to continue it as a nonconforming use comes to an end. Saddle River ex rel. Perrin v. Bobinski, 108 N.J.Super. 6, 259 A.2d 727 (1969); 1 R. Anderson, American Law of Zoning § 6.60 (2d ed. 1976); 8A E. McQuillin, The Law of Municipal Corporations § 25.191 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT