Kilkenny, Labrecque and Leonard.
This land condemnation case was tried before a jury and resulted in a verdict awarding the property owner, Marcrest Homes, $1075 for a small sliver of land taken for highway purposes (.058 of an acre) and slope rights, and further awarding $2750 for the State's alleged interference with the property owner's access rights to its remaining acreage.
The State moved for judgment n.o.v. as to the $2750 portion of the verdict; and Marcrest Homes moved for a
new trial, claiming the $2750 award for loss of access rights was inadequate. The trial judge granted the State's motion, having reserved decision on the State's prior motions during trial to dismiss this claim pending return of the verdict. Marcrest Homes' motion for a new trial was denied.
Marcrest Homes appeals from the judgment n.o.v. , insofar as it denies a recovery for the claimed loss of access rights. It also appeals from the order denying a new trial as to the quantum of damages awarded by the jury for loss of access rights. Marcrest Homes does not appeal from the award of $1075 for the land actually taken and the slope rights.
Marcrest's property is located on Route 9 at the intersection of that State Highway and Clayton Road. The entire tract contains approximately 118 acres in both Marlboro and Manalapan Townships. At the time of the State's taking on June 16, 1966 to improve Route 9, the property was vacant, unimproved, rolling land. Prior to June 16, 1966 a one-story fruit stand had been on the property, but at the time in issue there were no buildings on the land and no building permit applications were pending.
Some 109.6 acres of the entirety of 117.26 acres were zoned by Marlboro Township for residential purposes under its zone classification R-40. We are not concerned herein with that acreage. The other 7.66 acres were in commercial zone B-3. Such zoning permits highway commercial uses. Of that latter acreage, there were 720 feet of frontage on Clayton Road with 4.43 acres; and there were 525 feet of frontage on Route 9 with acreage of approximately 3.23 acres. It is this last item with which we are concerned.
In reconstructing and improving Route 9, the State erected curbing and a guard rail along the entire 525-foot frontage on Route 9 for the safety of the travelling public -- the highway level being about three feet higher than Marcrest's abutting property. Such a curbing and guard rail had not existed prior thereto, so that one could previously
drive off Route 9 onto the Marcrest land, as, for example, to the lone fruit stand.
The highway business district permits funeral homes, service stations, drive-in restaurants, bowling alleys, motels and other equivalent uses. There are area requirements for each use, such as 60,000 square feet for bowling alleys and lumber yards, 40,000 square feet for funeral homes, service stations, motels and other specified uses, and 20,000 square feet for animal hospitals. There are highway frontage requirements, generally 200 feet, but 300 feet for bowling alleys and down to 100 feet for drive-in-restaurants and animal hospitals.
However, Marcrest had never subdivided its lands or highway frontage, had never made application for any subdivision and, as noted above, ...