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New Jersey Highway Authority v. Drenth

Decided: March 25, 1957.

NEW JERSEY HIGHWAY AUTHORITY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ERNEST DRENTH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



Broadhurst, J.s.c.

Broadhurst

[44 NJSuper Page 328] The Legislature in 1952 passed an act known and cited as "'The New Jersey Highway Authority Act'" (N.J.S.A. 27:12 B -1 et seq.). This act created a body corporate and politic, to be known as the "'New Jersey Highway Authority'" (N.J.S.A. 27:12 B -4). The Authority was authorized (a) to construct, maintain, repair and operate a project to be known as "The Garden State Parkway" beginning in Paramus and ending near Cape May (N.J.S.A. 27:12 B -20); and (b) to construct, maintain, repair and operate any "feeder road * * * which in the opinion of the Authority will

increase the use of a project * * *" (N.J.S.A. 27:12 B -5(p)). The legislative definition of "feeder road" as used in the act "means any road which in the opinion of the Authority is necessary to create or facilitate access to a project" (N.J.S.A. 27:12 B -3(g); italics ours).

The Garden State Parkway was built and has, for some time, been in operation between Cape May and Paramus. Under the authority of the Legislature of New York a toll road was built extending from Albany to a point on the New Jersey State boundary line, in the Borough of Montvale, New Jersey.

On December 15, 1955 the Authority adopted Resolution 1955-95, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 27:12 B -1 et seq. , determining "that a feeder road between the northerly terminus of Section 1 of the Garden State Parkway in Paramus and the New York State boundary line will, in the opinion of the Authority, increase the use of the Garden State Parkway project, and is necessary to create or facilitate access to the said project"; that this road, connecting with the New York Thruway, as part of the Garden State Parkway project is "to be known as Thruway Feeder Road."

The lands of the defendants lay in the path of the "Thruway Feeder Road" and on February 23, 1956 the said defendants entered into a "Right of Entry Permit" with the Authority. Under this permit defendants granted to the Authority "an irrevocable right to enter upon the lands * * * in order to carry out the construction program of the Authority, including * * * surveys, clearing, grading, drainage, demolition of existing structures, and the erection of new structures or other improvements." As a consideration for the permit the Authority agreed to promptly negotiate with defendants "looking to a settlement, based upon a fair and just price to be paid to the Owner (defendants)." Interest on the agreed price at 6% per annum was to be paid from the date of the permit and "the value and payment for the property, whether by contract or condemnation, shall be fixed and determined as of the date of this agreement" (par. 6).

Although there is no proof before me, it was stated on the oral argument and in the brief, that the Authority took possession of defendants' lands, proceeded with the financing of the project and entered into contractual undertakings for the construction of the "feeder road."

Not being able to agree with the defendants "upon a fair and just price" for their lands, the Authority filed a complaint to condemn them (N.J.S.A. 27:12 B -5(l)). On September 28, 1956 an order was entered in this court requiring the defendants to show cause, on November 2, 1956, why judgment should not be entered appointing condemnation commissioners. On the return day of this order, the defendants, for the first time, raised the questions which must be determined by this decision. Orders of continuance were entered to afford counsel time to file briefs and the matter was finally argued on March 22, 1957.

A preliminary question is raised by the defendants. They contend that "a factual question exists whether the within described project is a 'feeder road' within the contemplation of the Statutes relied upon by the Authority," and that this court "must hear testimony and opinion of experts, consider the facts and take judicial notice of the area in question in order to determine whether in fact, a bona fide 'feeder road' exists * * *."

There is no ambiguity, in my opinion, in the language and intent of this statute and it is neither necessary nor permissible to take testimony as suggested by the defendants.

The fundamental question raised by the defendants is whether the road from Paramus to Montvale is a "feeder road" within the intent of the Legislature as expressed in "The New Jersey Highway Authority Act." The defendants say that the statute does not give "any authority * * * to construct a road, or to continue the highway from the peripheral area of Paramus, in an eastward direction toward the New York line." That "there is a complete absence of authority, or jurisdiction, for such a project."

"This act, being necessary for the welfare of the State and its inhabitants shall be liberally ...


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