Bigley, J.c.c., Temporarily Assigned.
This matter involves the determination of what constitutes just compensation for the partial taking by the State of a strip of land and a portion of a building which fronts on State Highway 30, the Admiral Wilson Boulevard, in the City of Camden. The purpose of this taking was to effectuate the construction of a widened highway, which action necessitated the taking of all of the lands in front of the building in question and approximately 10% of the building itself.
The physical results of this action have resulted in substantial damage to the remaining structure in the form of injury to the building's heating, plumbing and electrical systems. In addition, the taking has denied all access to the property to and from the Admiral Wilson Boulevard and evoked the necessity to re-establish the structural safety of the building and the adequate functioning of all mechanical systems before the Camden Building Inspector will permit the structure to be occupied by issuing a new certificate of occupancy.
1. The court has considered the testimony of expert witnesses produced on behalf of the State and the property owner concerning the fair market value of the property prior to the State's taking. The court finds such value to be in the amount of $159,000 based upon a comparison of the competing testimony and other evidence produced.
2. The court has heard evidence in the form of testimony by Camden's Chief Building Inspector for the City of Camden that the various damaged systems are in such condition as to warrant their replacement and that the building has certain structural deficiencies which, when taken together, will preclude the issuance of a new certificate of occupancy before renovations and repairs are satisfactorily accomplished. Since it is uncontradicted that the building was lawfully occupied prior to the State's action, the court finds as a matter of fact that the occasion for reinspection
and the necessity for a new certificate of occupancy is attributable directly to the State's action. In effect, the taking has moved the building from a status of lawful commercial use to one of noncompliance with municipal regulations, resulting in an inability to make reasonable commercial use of the property.
3. The court has considered evidence produced on behalf of the property owner in the form of expert testimony concerning renovation and repair costs and finds such costs to exceed the fair market value of the building in such a restored condition, which value both sides agree is approximately $75,000.
4. On the basis of the evidence concerning the building's physical condition and its lack of a certificate of occupancy, the court finds that the fair market value of the building for any reasonable commercial use subsequent to the State's action is zero; however, the value of the underlying land is found by this court to be $11,400.
5. Upon consideration of the testimony and evidence produced regarding the cost of demolition of the remaining structure, the court finds such cost to be $29,912.
The State contends that the triggering of the necessity for a certificate of occupancy is a fortuitous exigency and is not a factor to be considered in assessing the fair market value of the building for the purpose of fixing the structure's value after the taking. Alternatively, the State urges that if the requirement of a certificate of occupancy is a factor to be considered in arriving at "just compensation," it can only be so if the conditions required to be cured, in order that the certificate of occupancy may issue, are conditions created by the State, and there is sufficient evidence to support what those conditions are and the cost of curing them.
The court understands this latter argument to mean that only the direct, physical damage to the building caused by the State is compensable and that the State's obligation to pay goes only to ...