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New Jersey Turnpike Authority v. Herrontown Woods Inc.

Decided: November 24, 1976.

NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE AUTHORITY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
HERRONTOWN WOODS, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Matthews, Seidman and Horn.

Per Curiam

[145 NJSuper Page 280] The New Jersey Turnpike Authority appeals from an award in this condemnation case made by the Law Division after a trial without a jury. Plaintiff filed its complaint and declaration of taking on September 28, 1971. Commissioners were appointed December 22, 1971. They entered their report on August 21, 1973 and both parties

appealed therefrom, so that a trial de novo was held before the trial judge on a stipulation waiving a jury. The judge made a total award of damages in the sum of $133,682, being the aggregate sum of the value of the property taken, $88,974; damages to a strip subject to pipeline easement, $7,404, and damages to the remainder of the tract, $37,304.

Defendant Herrontown Woods, Inc., on the date of the taking, September 28, 1971, was the owner of an irregularly shaped parcel consisting of 35.33 acres in a rural neighborhood fronting on the Turnpike and with access on a narrow dead-end street. The property had some old dilapidated farm buildings thereon which were not affected by the taking. The land was zoned industrial and research. It was located basically at the crossing of I-195 and the Turnpike.

During the 1960s the State undertook the planning and construction of Interstate 195, a major limited-access interstate highway running east-west across New Jersey. It was proposed to cross over and interchange with the New Jersey Turnpike in Washington Township, Mercer County. Acquisition of right-of-way for I-195 by the State Department of Transportation in the Washington Township area took place in the 1968-1970 period.

In the late 1960s the New Jersey Turnpike Authority and the State Department of Transportation commenced joint planning for the construction of the interchange between the Turnpike and I-195. Design engineering for the interchange commenced in 1968, property acquisition took place in 1971 and construction commenced in 1972, with completion of the interchange in the fall of 1974.

Plaintiff sought by the condemnation action to take 14.83 acres in fee and 1.853 acres for utility easement, leaving title to 20.5 acres remaining in the owner. Only two witnesses testified below as to the value of the land which was taken, the value of the easement and the damages to the remainder. John Rapp, real estate expert, testified for the

State, and Bryce Thompson, also a real estate expert and president of defendant company, testified for defendant.*fn1

Rapp appraised the value of the subject property prior to the taking at $4,000 an acre. Utilizing this figure for the area taken and giving a 25% damage factor to the remainder, and finding that the new easement was worth $1,000 an acre, he testified that approximately $83,500 would represent just compensation. As a secondary valuation Rapp stated that as a result of the "special benefit" to the subject property due to the creation of the Edgewood Road overpass and the continuation of this previously dead-ended road (providing access to the property that did not exist before) the damages to the remainder should be offset by 50%, or $500 an acre, so that $71,421 would be just compensation.

Thompson appraised the subject property before the taking at $9,240 an acre, or a total value of $326,476. Utilizing this figure for the area taken and applying a 50% damage factor to the remainder, and finding that the easement had depreciated 75%, he concluded that $255,530 represented the value of that which was taken as well as the damages to the remaining land.

Each of the experts based his respective evaluation on comparable sales. Rapp enumerated the details of nine sales, of which three were in industrial zones. Thompson referred to seven sales, six of which were in areas zoned for industrial use. The judge regarded only two sales cited by Rapp and three sales cited by Thompson as significant. Ocean Cty. v. Landolfo , 132 N.J. Super. 523, 528 (App. ...


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