Access, the ability to get to one's property from a public road, is a vital part of property ownership and often impacted by government actions the government restricts or completely eliminates access, that loss can have a significant, negative impact on the property's value. Recently, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a decision in City of Phoenix v. Garretson that could open the door for many landowners to receive compensation for loss of access to a public street.
Before the Court's ruling in Garretson, a common notion among Arizona condemnation attorneys was that property owners were entitled to compensation for loss of access under very limited circumstances. Specifically, earlier cases suggested that loss of access was not compensable unless (1) some of the landowner's property was actually acquired for a public project, and (2) the loss of access left the property totally or effectively landlocked.
In Garretson, the Court clarified that a property owner is entitled to just compensation under the Arizona Constitution for loss of access even if no portion of the property is taken for a government project. And the property owner may have a claim for compensation if access to a public street is destroyed even though the property has other points of access.
Under the specific facts presented in Garretson, the Court ruled that the downtown Phoenix landowner could pursue his claim against the city for the decreased value of his property caused by the light rail project's elimination of the property's access to Jefferson Street. The Court held that Garretson could make this claim even though his property still had access points on Madison Street.