WS Homeowners Claim NCDOT Has Taken Their Land
Hundreds of property owners want a judge to force the state to buy them out. Tuesday in Raleigh, an appellate judge will hear arguments surrounding Winston-Salem’s Northern Beltway. It’s a 34.2 mile proposed freeway that will loop around the northern part of the city to relieve traffic on other highways including U.S. 52 and U.S. 421. For almost 20 years, the project has restricted land development of hundreds of property owners where the beltway is to happen. Now, they want the judge to force the state to buy them out.
James Nelson and his wife Phyllis live on the western leg of the Northern Beltway. When he was in his 40’s, he hoped to build half a dozen single-family homes on five acres as a retirement investment. He claims the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has taken his land and at the age of 64, Nelson just wants to sell and move. "They drove the stakes in 1996. It goes 200 feet on each side of those stakes, coming through the middle of my home and to the back of my property," says Nelson. "I can't do anything, I'm sitting here trapped."
Meanwhile, attorneys for the state say the land has not been taken. NCDOT Engineer Pat Ivey explains residents do have some options for developing their property. "Make DOT aware of that plan to develop those properties and DOT has three years, according to the law, to make a decision. Either to buy that property or allow it to be developed even under the map act," says Ivey. But Nelson and other homeowners question the type of market that exists for any kind of development within the beltway's path. "If you did build single family homes or other improvements to the property, then your only buyer would be the DOT," says Nelson. "You don't know when that's going to happen."According to NCDOT, property within the eastern leg of the loop has been restricted since 1997. Land on the western leg has been restricted since 2008. Under state law, once land is restricted for a road project, the state is not on a deadline to purchase that land.