The Arizona Supreme Court handed private property owners a victory in City of Phoenix v. Garretson:
Arizona law is now crystal clear regarding the complete destruction of access. Before Garretson, lawyers for condemnors had argued that complete destruction of one access point was non-compensable if the property retained other, non-circuitous, and reasonable access to the road network. Garretson prevents condemning authorities from eliminating one point of access completely for a property to a certain road without paying for any devaluation that occurs to the property as a result.
The facts of Garretson were first related in this space here. And, as suggested here, the Supreme Court essentially affirmed the Court of Appeals, albeit while substituting a Supreme Court opinion for the written opinion of the lower court.
There are three great things about the ruling. First, superior courts, where trial of these cases occurs, now have a clear statement of the law upon which they can base their rulings.
Second, private property owners are entitled to compensation for access restrictions, which most people intuitively perceive as decreasing the value of real estate. (Whether or not this perception is true is sure to be hotly contested.)
Finally, private property owners now are able to bring into being the parade of horribles surely elucidated in the briefs the city and those aligned with the city submitted to the Supreme Court. The fear of the city and those aligned with it, expressed in those briefs, was surely that lawyers defending property owners would push to extend a favorable ruling to try to capture compensation for every destruction of access in a way that would threaten the very existence of a free society as we know it.
This is known as a "slippery slope" argument (see right), and the city and its minions were, to some extent, correct. For instance, I believe this ruling gives rise to a claim for just compensation when temporary complete destruction of access occurs during construction of improvements even if the access will be re-opened once construction is complete. Temporary complete destruction of access occurs frequently.
Congratulations again to Dale Zeitlin on giving us a great case with which to go forward once more unto the breach.