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State of New Jersey v. Sherwood Associates, II, LLC

A-2806-07T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

CONDEMNATION; ACCESS — If a condemning authority’s acquisition of land results in limited, but reasonable, access of that land, an owner is not entitled to compensation just because of that loss of access but would be entitled to compensation if the denial of access made the property less value by limiting design options or by reason of losing on-site maneuverability.

A landowner owned a fifteen acre tract of property fronting a state highway on its east side and fronting a public road on the north side where it intersected with a state highway. Drivers could exit and enter the property from both roadways. The State filed a condemnation complaint seeking to acquire a portion of the property in order to widen the state highway and to improve the intersection. Land along each of the northern and eastern boundaries of the property was to be taken. As a result of the northern taking, access to the property from the intersecting public road would be eliminated. The landowner’s appraiser enhanced his estimates of the damage to the northern part of the property because of the access denial. The lower court did not accept the testimony of the landowner’s appraiser because his testimony solely referred to the loss of value caused by the ingress and egress restriction. The landowner appealed, arguing that the lower court should have admitted this opinion of value because the denial of access resulted in a detriment by reason of the property’s unique shape and size of the lot.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling. It first noted that, under law, if the State’s acquisition of land results in limited, but reasonable, access to that land, an owner is not entitled to compensation just because of that loss of access. The Court then agreed that a denial of access could make property less valuable by limiting design options or because of a loss of on-site maneuverability. However, it held that such limitations may be considered only if determined to be “actual and specific” to the property and, in this matter, the landowner failed to prove such damages. The Court also observed that the lot remained contiguous despite the access denial, and no section of the lot was proven unusable because of the access denial.


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