If you have been contacted about your property being used for a state-funded project, such as highway expansion, it’s important to speak with an eminent domain attorney in Raleigh immediately. At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler, & Thomas, LLP, we know that this can be a confusing topic, and you’re concerned about your rights. To help you better understand how this works, we’re sharing a glossary of terms related to eminent domain as well as a step-by-step look at how the process is laid out.
Glossary of Terms Related to Eminent Domain
Eminent domain refers to the power of the government to obtain property for public or private use as long as the property owner receives fair compensation. This is laid out in the “Takings Clause” written in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. Under the Fourteenth Amendment, states and local governments are awarded the same ability to claim private property for public use, but there are limits placed on their power.
Land condemnation refers to the actual process in which the government acquires land through the power of eminent domain and compensates the property owner.
For example, by right of eminent domain, the North Carolina Department of Transportation begins the process of land condemnation to acquire land necessary to build the N.C. 54 Corridor.
Additional Terms Used in Eminent Domain Cases
- Right of Way Acquisition – The act of taking the land from the original owner by another party who has legal rights and jurisdiction to do so while providing financial compensation for the value of the property.
- Right of Way Agent – The Right of Way Agent is in charge of acquiring properties for large projects, such as road construction. If your land is in the way of a project, you will be approached by a Right of Way Agent for initial discussions.
- Partial Taking – If only part of your property is needed for a project, it is considered to be a partial taking. For example, you have one square acre, but only 3,000 square feet along the back part of the acre is needed.
- Inverse Condemnation – This term refers to the situation in which your land isn’t acquired by the government, but it is rendered unusable or loses value due to a government project or a change to a statute or ordinance. This may also be referred to as a Regulatory Taking.
- Just or Fair Compensation – This refers to the amount of money paid to the property owner. This could include the property value, lost value, and relocation expenses.
- Uneconomic Remainder – If a parcel of land is left that is considered unusable to the government and the owner, it is considered to be an uneconomic remainder.
The Steps of Eminent Domain in North Carolina
If you receive notice from a Right of Way Agent regarding acquiring your property, the first step is to contact an experienced eminent domain lawyer to work by your side. While it’s important to note that once proceedings begin, the government entity will most likely acquire your property as the end result, you should get the compensation you deserve.
Here’s what you can expect from an eminent domain proceeding in North Carolina:
- The government begins eminent domain proceedings by filing a complaint and declaration of taking in the superior court of the county in which the property is located.
- In order to determine compensation, the agency will hire their own appraiser to gather information about how much to offer who will prepare a written appraisal regarding the fair market value of your property in relation to the highest and best use for the property.
- The government will make an offer based on their appraiser’s recommendation.
Note: At this point, you can accept their offer or, move on to the next step.
- The property owner or government entity requests the appointment of commissioners within 60 days after the property owner files their answer to the complaint. Commissioners should be disinterested property owners residing in the county.
- The commissioners will visit the property, hear testimony, and hold hearings to determine value and compensation.
- If the property owner is still not satisfied with the ruling of the commissioners, he or she can appeal within 30 days and the case will be heard by a jury.
Protecting Your Best Interests During a Land Condemnation Case
If you believe you property may be affected by a government project or you’re contacted, here’s our recommendations about how to protect your best interests:
- Contact an eminent domain attorney – Securing an eminent domain attorney early on in the process will give you piece of mind. We can guide you through the process and ensure that you are fairly compensated for your property.
- Be a part of the process – Information is power. Obtain all documents regarding the project related to your case and attend meetings regarding the project. The NCDOT is required to inform the public of its plans.
- Do not agree to the first offer – The government will send an appraiser and make an offer based on his or her appraisal. This will be the lowest possible offer, so do not accept it.
- Hire an independent appraiser – Hire your own appraiser, so you have a second opinion on what your property is worth. This will help you and your attorney negotiate with state so you get the best possible offer.
If you and the government agree on compensation, the sale can proceed as normal. However, if this does not happen, eminent domain proceedings may begin.
Current Projects in North Carolina
Primarily, eminent domain and land condemnation are due to road and highway projects headed by the Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Current projects include:
- N.C. 54 Corridor Improvements from U.S. 15/501 in Chapel Hill to N.C. 55 in Durham. This is scheduled to begin in 2024, though Right-of-Way is scheduled for 2022.
- U.S. 70 Improvements from Glenwood Avenue west of T.W. Alexander Drive to I-540 in Durham and Wake Counties, converting intersections at U.S. 70 and T.W. Alexander and U.S. 70 and Brier Creek Parkway into interchanges. Right-of-Way begins in 2021 and construction will begin soon after.
- I-40 Widening from a 12-mile stretch of 1-40 across southeast Raleigh to the N.C. 42 interchange in Clayton. Right-of-Way Acquisition is going on currently, and the project is scheduled to be completed in 2022.
Hire an Eminent Domain Lawyer in Raleigh
If your property have been contacted by a Right of Way agent, call our eminent domain attorneys immediately at (919) 615-2473 or complete the form below. We will guide you through the process and ensure that you are fairly compensated for your property, and any other associated costs that come with eminent domain cases.