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State v. Monmouth Hills Inc.

Decided: June 11, 1970.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, BY THE COMMISSIONER OF TRANSPORTATION, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
MONMOUTH HILLS, INC., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Conford, Collester and Kolovsky. The opinion of the court was delivered by Kolovsky, J.A.D.

Kolovsky

So that it might construct a reverse jug handle turn on Route 36 in Middletown Township, plaintiff acquired by condemnation a portion of defendant's lands abutting the southerly line of Route 36. At the trial of the appeal from an award made by condemnation commissioners, the jury found that $4500 was the compensation to be paid defendant for the land taken and the damage to the remainder of its lands by reason of the taking.

Defendant appeals from the judgment entered on the jury verdict, arguing that it was entitled to compensation beyond

that encompassed in the verdict, which was limited to the value of the .577 acres taken and the damage to the remaining 2.206 acres of its tract. To evaluate that argument requires a brief resume of the relevant facts.

The 2.783 acre tract owned by plaintiff prior to the taking constituted a green belt or buffer zone extending around a building development known as Monmouth Hills in which there exist approximately 36 individually owned homes and 12 building sites, the latter apparently owned by defendant. Access to and from Route 36 into the development was afforded by Monmouth Drive (sometimes referred to as Serpentine Drive), a street running southerly from the southerly line of Route 36, and a second street situate some 1100 feet to the east of Monmouth Drive. The westerly line of Monmouth Drive is 57 feet distant (measured along Route 36) from the easterly line of the land taken for the jug handle.

No part of either Monmouth Drive or of the other street leading into the development was taken by plaintiff. The taking itself involved no impairment of access. Access to and from Route 36 to the homes and sites in the Monmouth Hills development -- through Monmouth Drive and the street 1100 feet to the east -- remained the same after the taking as it was before the taking.

Defendant's asserted claim to additional compensation is bottomed on the circumstance that the State proposed to close, contemporaneously with the construction of the jug handle, an opening in the median strip or center barrier of Route 36 located opposite the mouth of Monmouth Drive. That opening had permitted automobiles leaving Monmouth Drive to go west on Route 36 by driving through the opening and making a left-hand turn. Once the opening was closed, an automobile leaving Monmouth Drive and desiring to proceed west on Route 36 would be compelled to take a more circuitous route, to drive east along Route 36 to a street enabling it to accomplish a U-turn.

We find no merit in the defendant's claim to additional compensation -- which here defendant would equate to the

cost of installing ramps to obviate the necessity of using the more circuitous route -- even if we accept arguendo its contention that it is entitled to assert the rights of the individual landowners in the Monmouth Hills development so that the consequential damages to be admeasured were not only those suffered by the remaining 2.206 acres of the buffer zone but also those, if any, suffered by the entire Monmouth Hills building development. The latter suffered no compensable damage.

There has been no deprivation of access. The closing of the opening in the center barrier with the consequence that those leaving Monmouth Drive and desiring to proceed west will have to use a more circuitous route does not constitute a compensable taking of, or compensable damage to, property. Tubular Service Corp. v. Com'r. State Highway Dept. , 40 N.J. 331, 332 (1963), aff'g 77 N.J. Super. 556 (App. Div. 1963); cf. Mueller v. N.J. Highway Authority , 59 N.J. Super. 583 (App. Div. 1960).

Nor does such closing of the opening in the center barrier give rise to a right of compensation because it is being done contemporaneously with the construction of a nearby jug handle turn on land which the State is acquiring by exercise of its power of eminent domain. Jacobson v. State, State Highway Commission , 244 A.2d 419, 421-422 (Me. Sup. Jud. Ct. 1968); ...


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