Chapter Six: The Centrality of Exclusion Page 455
(1955)—Mount Laurel was an appropriate, if somewhat delayed, judicial response. To a number of
critics, particularly local and state legislators and skeptical judges from other jurisdictions, those
who sat on New Jersey’s high court were mistaken arbiters at best, socialist usurpers at worst.
During the more than three succeeding decades, the legacy of Mount Laurel has been impres-
sive: some corrective legislation, replication and modication in a number of state courts, oceans of
ink in planning and law journals, and stubborn resistance leading to a second (more restrictive and
demanding) supreme court decision in the Garden State. Even if one opposed the court’s activism
and social tampering, it was now evident that zoning and socioeconomic exclusion were intertwined.
SOUTHERN BURLINGTON COUNTY NAACP v. TOWNSHIP OF MOUNT LAUREL
[MOUNT LAUREL I]
e opinion of the Court was delivered by HALL, J. . . .
Plaintis represent the minority group poor (black and Hispanic) seeking such [aordable]
quarters. But they are not the only category of persons barred from so many municipalities by
reason of restrictive land use regulations. We have reference to young and elderly couples, sin-
gle persons and large, growing families not in the poverty class, but who still cannot aord the
only kinds of housing realistically permitted in most places—relatively high-priced, single-family
detached dwellings on sizeable lots and, in some municipalities, expensive apartments. We will,
therefore, consider the ca se from the wider viewpoint that the eect of Mount Laurel’s land use
regulation has been to prevent various categories of persons from living in the township because of
the limited extent of their income and resources. In this connection, we accept the representation
of the municipality’s counsel at oral argument that the regulatory scheme was not adopted with
any desire or intent to exclude prospective residents on the obviously illegal bases of race, origin or
believed social incompatibility.
As already intimated, the issue here is not conned to Mount Laurel. e same question arises
with respect to any number of other municipalities of sizeable land area outside the central cities
and older built-up suburbs of our North and South Jersey metropolitan areas (and surrounding
some of the smaller cities outside those areas as well) which, like Mount Laurel, have substantially
shed rural characteristics and have undergone great population increase since World War II, or are
now in the process of doing so, but still are not completely developed and remain in the path of
inevitable future residential, commercial and industrial demand and growth. Most such munici-
palities, with but relatively insignicant variation in details, present generally comparable physical
situations, courses of municipal policies, practices, enactments and results and human, govern-
mental and legal problems arising therefrom. It is in the context of communities now of this type
or which become so in the future, rather than with central cities or older builtup suburbs or areas
still rural and likely to continue to be for some time yet, that we deal with the question raised. . . .
Mount Laurel is a at, sprawling township, 22 square miles, or about 14,000 acres, in area,
on the west central edge of Burlington County. It is roughly triangular in shape, with its base,
approximately eight miles long, extending in a northeasterly-southwesterly direction roughly par-
allel with and a few miles east of the Delaware River. Part of its southerly side abuts Cherry Hill
in Camden County. at section of the township is about seven miles from the boundary line of
the city of Camden and not more than 10 miles from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge crossing the
river to Philadelphia.
In 1950, the township had a population of 2817, only about 600 more people than it had in
1940. It was then, as it had been for decades, primarily a rura l agricultura l area with no sizeable
settlements or commercial or industrial enterprises. e populace generally lived in individual