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New Jersey Municipalities
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Your Guide to Understanding the New Jersey Municipality Types and Forms.


NJ SealThe State of New Jersey has established 5 official types of local governing municipalities that it recognizes within it's counties: Township, City, Borough, Town and Village.  They all control well defined geographical areas and have the same legal standing within the state and their respective counties. There are no lower level or subordinate municipalities through which they have to share power.  This differs from the concept of a township outside of New Jersey. Although many people equate towns with townships, in New Jersey, when referring to governing municipalities, they are not the same.  
 
The entire state of New Jersey is divided into a total of 566 incorporated (officially state sanctioned, governing) municipalities.  Boroughs are the most popular type of municipality (39%), followed by townships (27%), with cities a distant 3rd (under 13%). 
 
Let's look at Burlington County, for example.  It has separate and legally equal Burlington City and Burlington Township; there is also the Borough of Medford Lakes which is surrounded by Medford Township -- both separate and independent governing bodies.  
 
Keep in mind, that New Jersey school districts may overlap several municipalities, such as is the case with Lenape Regional School District(high schools).  Continuing with our example, Medford and Medford Lakes have their own K thru 8th grade school systems and then send their students on to Shawnee High School, one of the Lenape Regional high schools.  Mount Laurel Township will send it's high school students to Lenape High School, which by the way is physically located in Medford Township.  
 
While there are 5 types of municipalities, there are 11 specific forms of municipal government. This includes 5 traditional forms that correspond to the 5 municipality types; but there are also forms that are more modern (Walsh Act/Commission1923 Municipal Manager) with a large portion of the population residing in a form of municipality using one of 4 plans based on the Faulkner Act (or Optional Municipal Charter Law - OMCL).  There is a 12th option of a special legislative charter
 
In New jersey, 21% of municipalities, including the biggest cities, representing half of the state population govern under the Faulkner Act (OMCL).  Within the 4 OMCL plans, the Small Municipality plan can only be adopted by communities with a population under 12,000. Only a borough municipality can have a borough formof government.  Otherwise, any municipality type can choose from one of those several forms to establish and administrate their governing powers and responsibilities.  
  
Traditional Forms of Government
  
Although there are 5 possible types of municipalities, all counties in the state have primarily three types:  boroughs, townships and cities. Only 11 municipalities are official New Jersey municipal towns with a town form of government.  One, Hammonton, is located in Atlantic County, South Jersey; the rest are in North Jersey.  There are currently only 4 municipalities in New Jersey that are a village type of municipality, of which only one, Loch Arbour, has a village type and village form, as by January 1, 1990 all villages had to convert to the township form of government.   
 
If you are doing a search for properties in New Jersey, you will need to look by municipality within countyAll NJ real estate MLS's use municipality to locate property.  

Historic Medford VillageThere are also other other communities within any incorporated municipality which my have their own identify and even a separate zip code or post office. "Many locations in New Jersey are simply neighborhoods, with no exact boundaries; often the cluster of houses, the traditional neighborhood, the postal district, and the Census designated place will differ." (Wikipedia)
  
Hopefully this will not make it too much more confusing, but it should be mentioned that when addressing a location via a USPS address, the municipality type names of "Township", "Borough" and "City" are frequently not used as part of the the address.  Going back to our Burlington County example, any property within Medford Township is addressed by street number plus name and simply "Medford, NJ", with a zip code of 08055.  Medford Township is made up of  the original "Medford Village" and surrounding neighborhood areas.  Medford "Village" in this case is a non-governmental, unincorporated, historic designation, not a municipality in itself.  In point of fact, signs at the entrance to Medford Village say "Welcome to Historic Medford Village".   Another example is "Medford Lakes, NJ" (where "Borough" is not used).

MarltonLikewise, Marlton, another name for the original center of Evesham Township, is a census-designated place (CDP) community.  It is used by locals more often than "Evesham" to identify the area and, depending on location within the township, the mailing address is also Marlton, NJ". Marlton's and Evesham's zip code are both 08053.  Almost all road signs reference Marlton, not Evesham Township.  Browns Mills in Pemberton Township is another example of census-designated place.  There are also additional communities within most of the counties that -- though they are not incorporated -- may have their own post office and whose USPS mailing addresses use the community name in the city part of the address; for example, Sicklerville in Winslow Township and Blackwood in Gloucester Township, Camden County; Sewell and Turnersville in Washington Township and Williamstown in Monroe Township, Gloucester County. 
 
The name of a New Jersey municipality is unique only within it's county.  For example, you can only have one Washington Township in Gloucester County, but there are also Washington Townships in Burlington, Bergen, Mercer, Morris and Warren counties.  Warren County has a Washington Township and Washington Borough, but those are considered unique and allowable names.  Therefore, you can have a Burlington County with a Burlington City and a Burlington Township.  As populations change, so can names. In 2006, Dover Township of Ocean County was officially changed to Township of Toms River as the previously unincorporated community known as "Toms River" had completed overshadowed it's official township name of "Dover" in recognition and usage.
 
As long as you understand municipality naming traditions and can follow the basic geographic governmental hierarchy (unincorporated neighborhood/community -> incorporated municipality -> county -> state), there should be no confusion when identifying areas for buying or selling property.
 

Additional References:
Types and Forms of Municipal Government - NJLM
NJ Municipal Government - NJVoterInfo
NJ Legislature - Municipalities Index
NJ County and Municipal Web Sites, Maps and more
New Jersey State Library History of Forms of Government (PDF)
NJ History of Municipal Government since 1798 (PDF)
New Jersey Citizens' Guide to Government (League of Women Voters)
NJ City State and Local Government (Rutgers)
NJ Municipal and County Government
Forms of Municipal Government in New Jersey - Rutgers (PDF)
Inventory of Forms of Municpal Government in NJ - Rutgers (PDF)
More New Jersey local resources
 
  

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