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State v. Charles Investment Corp.

Decided: August 5, 1976.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, BY THE COMMISSIONER OF TRANSPORTATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES INVESTMENT CORPORATION, A CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY; STATE OF NEW JERSEY; SAVE-WAY STATIONS, INC.; HACKENSACK WATER COMPANY, A CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY; TOWN OF SECAUCUS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF NEW JERSEY, DEFENDANTS



Bilder, J.s.c.

Bilder

[143 NJSuper Page 542] This is a motion in a condemnation case to strike as much of the landowner's claim as seeks compensation for a loss of access right.*fn1

Plaintiff is the owner of land located on the northerly side of Route 3, a principal state highway running in an east-west direction from the Lincoln Tunnel to a point in Passaic County where it joins with State Route 46, another principal state highway. The land contains a Save-Way gasoline station.

On June 5, 1963, in connection with an improvement of Route 3, the State took a ten-foot-wide strip of land along the property's entire 300-foot highway frontage.

Prior to the acquisition the landowner enjoyed a 300-foot frontage directly on the westbound lanes of Route 3 to which access was gained through three driveways.

As a result of the reconstruction of Route 3 (the cause of the taking in this case), it became a controlled access highway. Both the eastbound and westbound roadways were widened to three lanes and in the vicinity of the subject property a service road was constructed. A barrier was constructed between the westbound lanes of the newly widened highway and the service road in order to control access to and from Route 3. As a result of the creation of this controlled access highway, the subject property, which before the reconstruction had fronted directly on the westbound lanes, abutted on the service road. Apart from the fact that a ten-foot-strip was taken along the entire frontage of the premises in question so as to move the owner's southerly boundary line ten feet northward, the subject property now enjoys the same access to the service road which it previously had to Route 3. Its actual frontage and driveway openings have been unaffected by the acquisition (apart from the aforenoted ten-foot shift northward).

The closest access to the service road from westbound Route 3 is via an exit located approximately 1500 feet east of the subject property. The closest access to Route 3 from the service road is obtained by an entrance opening located approximately 200 feet west of the subject property.

In addition to westbound Route 3 traffic specifically seeking the service road, all traffic exiting from the New Jersey

Turnpike and seeking to travel westbound on Route 3 must travel the service road and pass the subject property before gaining access to Route 3 proper. Similarly, all traffic exiting Paterson Plank Road seeking access to westbound Route 3 must pass the subject property on the service road.

The question presented is whether the owner of land upon which a gasoline station is located is entitled to be compensated for the loss of direct access to a state highway which resulted when the highway became a limited access road and the gasoline station's access, though substantially unchanged physically, was on the service road. Although the particular question is unique and heretofore undecided, the principles are well established.

Access to a public highway is a property right and its deprivation requires just compensation. Mueller v. N.J. Highway Auth. , 59 N.J. Super. 583 (App. Div. 1960). On the other hand, "the property owner is not entitled to access to his land at every point between it and the highway but only to 'free and convenient access to his property and the improvements on it.'" Id. at 595. Where, by virtue of state action, access is limited but remains reasonable, there is no such denial of access as entitles the landowner to compensation. State Highway Comm'r v. Kendall , 107 N.J. Super. 248 (App. Div. 1969) (limitation of access to designated openings resulting from the installation of curbing and railing along highway); State v. Stulman , 136 N.J. Super. 148 (App. Div. 1975) (substitution of more circuitous access roads).

Nor is a landowner entitled to compensation by virtue of inconvenience caused by the need to follow a more circuitous route. State v. Monmouth Hills, Inc. , 110 N.J. Super. 449 (App. Div. 1970) (loss of left turn access resulting from installation of center barriers); State v. Stulman, supra (substitution of more circuitous access road); see State v. Interpace Corp. , 130 N.J. Super. 322 (App. Div. 1974) ...


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