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State v. Interpace Corp.

Decided: May 31, 1974.


Halpern, Matthews and Bischoff.

Per Curiam

[130 NJSuper Page 325] The complaint in this partial taking condemnation suit was filed on June 5, 1969. The declaration of taking was filed on March 12, 1971, and a deposit of $103,650 was then made by the State. The commissioners' award was appealed and a jury returned a verdict in favor of defendant for $130,000, that amount representing the value of the property taken and the damage to the remainder. A motion for new trial or additur was denied. Interest was allowed by the trial judge on $130,000 from the filing of the

complaint to March 12, 1971 at 6%, and interest at 6% on $26,350 (being the difference between the amount of deposit and the ultimate award) was awarded from March 12, 1971 to April 18, 1973.

Defendant appeals from the judgment entered on the jury's verdict and from the denial of its new trial motion. The State cross-appeals from the allowance of interest as aforesaid.

Defendant's property consisted of approximately 184 acres of land. The premises were zoned for research office and laboratory use for the initial 1000 feet of depth from Cherry Hill Road, and the interior from said road was placed in a specialized economic development zone.

The experts approached the problem of valuation on different theories, leading to a divergence of their views on valuations. Defendant's experts assigned higher values for the lands which ran to a depth of 1000 feet off the highway as against the lands in the rear. They were of the opinion that the front lands were worth between $32,000 and $35,000 an acre, and the rear lands $22,000 to $18,500 an acre. The State's experts treated the 184-acre tract as a single piece of property and took no cognizance of the fact it was located in two different zones.

Defendant challenged some of the comparable sales used by the State as being too distant from the condemned premises, and insisted upon using sales of land made by itself just prior to the commencement of this suit. The State's experts challenged these sales on the theory that the land sold was the best land of the entire tract, whereas the approximately seven acres of land being taken on this condemnation was the poorest. Resolution of the conflict was properly left to the jury.

Defendant offered Clifford Johnson, a consulting engineer, as an expert who would have testified that the taking deprived the remaining acreage of reasonable access. Three factors influenced his opinion: (1) the construction of a third traffic lane to service the Route 80 entrance ramp, (2)

the projected traffic flow as of 1990, and (3) the projected number of employees within the complex in ten years. The trial court rejected the proffer. Relying on Mueller v. N.J. Highway Authority, 59 N.J. Super. 583, 595 (App. Div. 1960), Interpace contends that the issue of reasonable access was a question of fact which should have been submitted to the jury.

In the case of a partial taking, the owner is entitled not only to the value of the land taken but also to the amount of any diminution in the value of the remainder attributable to the taking. Ridgewood v. Sreel Investment Corp., 28 N.J. 121, 125 (1958). The denial of access is compensable, but a property owner is not entitled to access to his land at every point along its frontage. The property owner is entitled to free and convenient or reasonable access to the property and its improvements. Mueller v. N.J. Highway Authority, above; State Highway Comm'r. v. Kendall, 107 N.J. Super. 248, 252 (App. Div. 1969); 2A Nichols on Eminent Domain, § 6.4442. However, even though traffic regulations may affect ingress and egress, the resulting inconvenience is not compensable. State Highway Comm'r v. Kendall, above; State v. Monmouth Hills, Inc., 110 N.J. Super. 449, 452 (App. Div. 1970), certif. den. 57 N.J. 133 (1970); Tubular Service Corp. v. Comm'r, State Highway Dep't, 77 N.J. Super. 556 (App. Div. 1963), aff'd 40 N.J. 331 (1963); 2A Nichols on Eminent Domain, § 6.4443(4) and 4A Nichols, § 14.2431. See Annotation, 73 A.L.R. 2d 689, 692-698 (1960).

In Mueller this court stated, "What constitutes reasonable access is a question of fact." 59 N.J. Super. at 595. Interpace argues that Mueller requires submission of the access question to the jury. However, in Mueller the court was reviewing the grant of a motion for summary judgment. In that case the factual record was so obscure that a decision was virtually impossible and inappropriate. Interpace ignores the distinction between conclusions to be drawn from the ...

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