State ex. rel. Herman v. Schaffer

In State ex. rel. Herman v. Schaffer, 105 Ariz. 478, 467 P.2d 66 (1970), the State filed an action in eminent domain against multiple property owners to determine what damages, if any, arose from the construction of Interstate 10 ("I-10"). Id. at 479-80, 467 P.2d at 67-68. The property owners argued that before construction of I-10, they had direct access to the abutting highway in both directions. Id. at 479, 467 P.2d at 67. After construction, however, the owners no longer had direct access and could access I-10 only by a frontage road. Id. The State took the position that "controlling direct access to an interstate highway is an exercise of its police power, not eminent domain, and is not a taking of property so as to be compensable." Id. at 480, 467 P.2d at 68. Rejecting the owners' argument that they were entitled to compensation under the Arizona Constitution, the supreme court determined that "direct access to a highway is not a private property right within" the damages clause. Id. at 481, 467 P.2d at 69. In reaching that conclusion, the court repeatedly emphasized the unique character of controlled-access highways: A limited-access highway . . . is not an ordinary highway but an entirely new concept in highways which has made its appearance in recent years . . . . To bring this about, it is necessary that there be limited access to the highway, thereby eliminating danger of accidents and also affording economic advantages which would best serve the public interests. Id. at 480, 467 P.2d at 68. Thus, in light of the special circumstances presented by controlled-access highways, the court held that a property owner's right to compensation is determined by whether "the ingress and egress after conversion of the highway is 'unreasonably circuitous.'" Id. at 485, 467 P.2d at 73. The court also distinguished Wilson by emphasizing that the property at issue in Schaffer maintained access to the highway via a frontage road. Id. at 484, 467 P.2d at 72. Notwithstanding the court's analysis of the standard for evaluating compensation for reduced access to controlled-access highways, the court concluded as a matter of law that the property owners in Schaffer were entitled to compensation because the State breached its earlier agreement to install and maintain crossovers to benefit abutting property owners. Id. at 486-87, 467 P.2d at 74-75. In sum, the foregoing cases demonstrate that Arizona courts have broadly applied the damages clause to compensate landowners for governmental action that materially or substantially impairs the right of ingress and egress. The common thread is that the government may not completely remove or substantially impair a property's existing access to an abutting roadway without providing just compensation to the owner. See, e.g., Schaffer, 105 Ariz. at 481, 467 P.2d at 69.