A road project in North Carolina is finally moving forward after years of shifting plans and delays. Over 100 property owners are affected by an eminent domain decision to create a bypass on the western side of Mebane.
Eminent domain is the right for a government agency to take private land for public use. It can have implications for the landowner--dramatically impacting the property value, making restrictions on what a person can do with their property and can force people to leave their homes.
Jason Campbell, an attorney with the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm based in Durham, says this is a growing trend in North Carolina.
“What's happening is that the state has seen dramatic growth in its population over the years,” says Campbell. “You need new roads. You need new schools. You need government buildings and you need to be able to provide these services to more people, so what you are seeing is the power of eminent domain being used more and more throughout the state.”
Campbell says how the state addresses situations in eminent domain is a big issue. Often, property owners are in limbo for years.
“In the Winston-Salem Loop case, the court of appeals recently said North Carolina DOT, if you are going to freeze development and not let people do what they want with their land, than you are expected to pay people for it," says Campbell.
Campbell is leading a seminar on Thursday, Feb. 26 in Mebane to educate property owners impacted by the North Carolina 119 Relocation project about their rights and state laws on eminent domain.
“The takeaway from the Mebane bypass case for the rest of the state is that the NCDOT, whether they will admit to it or not, is realizing that it can't make people wait to get compensated, wait until many of them have died, wait until many of them have been forced to sell at a substantially unfair price because they needed the money then and they simply couldn't wait for the condemnation to occur,” says Campbell.
“Instead, the NCDOT is trying to make things right by moving forward with this bypass, even though in this case it doesn't actually have the money to build the road," says Campbell. "It is buying the land and paying property owners, so I think this is very positive for North Carolina, and that we starting to see a change in attitude from the NCDOT.”
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