Eminent Domain Attorney for the Proposed Southern Wake Freeway Project

The Southern Wake Freeway Project, also called the Complete 540 project, is extending the Triangle Expressway from the N.C. 55 Bypass in Apex around the southeastern area of Wake County and possibly a small area of Johnston County to connect to U.S. 64 in Knightdale. Right now, the project is divided into phases, the first two being N.C. 55 Bypass to U.S. 401 starting first, to be followed by U.S. 401 to I-40 for 20 miles of new highway.

This massive project will not only include full construction of a new highway, but will also require overpasses, access roads, and on and off-ramps throughout the southern portion of Wake County.

Purpose of the Complete 540 Project

By completing the 540 loop around Wake County, several suburban towns surrounding Raleigh, including Holly Springs, Garner, Fuquay-Varina, and Clayton, will have improved access. This will improve the quality of life and economic needs for residents and businesses in the area, especially as this area is experiencing rapid growth. Additionally, NCDOT says this will reduce traffic on I-440, I-40, and N.C. 55.

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Understanding Eminent Domain and Land Condemnation

For large-scale land development projects like this, NCDOT will need to acquire privately owned land on which to build. This is where laws regarding eminent domain and land condemnation come into play.

Eminent Domain

Eminent domain is the right of a government organization to acquire property by compensating the property owner. Generally, property acquired through this right is only used for public benefit, but the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Kelo v. City of New London that the government can claim eminent domain on behalf of private developers, such as utility companies.

Land Condemnation

Land condemnation, in this context, refers to the act of seizing land using the right of eminent domain. It doesn’t refer to any kind of hazard or sanitation issue, like when the city condemns a building.

Working with an Eminent Domain Attorney

Because NCDOT projects are seen as a public benefit, they are allowed to use eminent domain to acquire property for their road construction and improvement projects. If it’s determined that your property may be obtained, even though you must be compensated for your land, you should speak with an experienced eminent domain attorney as soon as possible.

Your attorney will advocate on your behalf to ensure you receive fair compensation for your property while walking you through the long and complicated process of eminent domain.

Eminent Domain Process

When a North Carolina government agency, like NCDOT, announces a project, it goes through a lengthy planning process that includes multiple public meetings. We highly recommend you attend these meetings if you feel these projects may impact you. Should the agency or organization determine that your property can be obtained through eminent domain, contact your eminent domain lawyer, and expect the process to work like this:

  • The government will send an representative to inspect and appraise your property.
  • You and your lawyer will hire your own appraiser to determine the value of your property.  
  • The government will make an offer based on their appraiser’s findings, which, if it is not accurate or fair, you do not have to accept.
  • If the property owner and the government agree on the compensation amount, the sale will move forward.
  • If compensation cannot be agreed upon, eminent domain proceedings will begin.

Eminent domain proceedings don’t have to be preceded by negotiations. In fact, the government can initiate eminent domain by filing a complaint and declaration in the county superior court where the property is as soon as the initial offer is rejected.

From there, you would file an answer to the complaint and either you or the NCDOT legal representative would request commissioners to be appointed to hear testimony, assess the property, and determine the compensation. At this point, if you are not satisfied with the compensation, you can appeal for a jury trial.

Eminent Domain Resources for Landowners

NCDOT does try to minimize the amount of people affected during these construction projects, but due to the scope of constructing 540, that may not be possible. Fortunately, they do offer relocation assistance for residents and businesses displaced by eminent domain.

In addition to purchasing property, they may offer assistance including paying rent, moving costs, and storage fees. Your eminent domain attorney will help you determine what assistance you’re eligible for and work on your behalf to secure it.

Eminent Domain Lawyer in Raleigh

If your property lies along the planned path of the Southern Wake Freeway, NCDOT may acquire it using eminent domain. If you are contacted by a Right of Way agent regarding this project in Wake or Johnston Counties, call our Raleigh law firm 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 time, property, and any other associated costs.

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