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Mercer County, NJ

This was an eminent domain case involving an approximate 70 acre property that contained a newly built industrial warehouse that was approximately 20 acres in size, and which borders the New Jersey Turnpike. When the plaintiff Turnpike Authority submitted its original plans, it called for an easement for the building of a fuel pipeline that would be placed along the edge of the property that bordered the Turnpike. The defendant property owner had refused the Turnpike Authority’s offer of approximately $________, and while negotiations were occurring, the Turnpike Authority made significant changes to its plan, deciding to instead lay the pipeline under the facility’s parking area and loading docks. The Turnpike Authority increased its offer to approximately $________. The offer included compensation for the inability of the property owner to rent the facility for approximately six months and the value of approximately four acres of land adjacent to the Turnpike. The property owner’s compensation claim approximated $________. The property had recently been purchased for approximately $________ and the warehouse was brand new – it had yet to be rented due to the impending Turnpike project. After changing the location of the pipeline easement, the Turnpike Authority’s appraiser acknowledged the damages in the form of lost rent to the defendant during the construction of the pipeline, but did not include any decrease in value created by the permanent presence of the pipeline.

The property owner contended that since the Turnpike Authority reserved the right to re-enter the premises to conduct maintenance or repairs of the pipeline, the value of the property was permanently diminished. The property owner also maintained that the offer was inadequate because the rent offered did not include payment for expenses such as maintenance and real estate taxes during the period in which it could not rent the facility, and also because the facility was not rentable for a period longer than six months. The Turnpike Authority contended that the chances that such repairs or maintenance would disrupt operations being needed were minimal and that the property owner’s claims for damages should be rejected.

The owner countered that the since the Turnpike Authority had retained the right to have such maintenance and/or repairs effectuated at any time in the future, it was clear that such an eventuality was clearly foreseeable. The property owner also pointed out that included in the Turnpike Authority’s permanent easement was the right to construct a second pipeline next to the first pipeline. The property owner’s counsel related that a search revealed no comparable warehouse properties in which an easement for a pipeline that ran under a parking area and loading dock were found. The plaintiff’s expert related that an appropriate method of calculating the impact on value was using the capitalization method that took into account the extent to which the risk of future use of the easement, and corresponding closure of the property, would have on the market value.The case settled prior to trial for $________.

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