An Eminent Domain Attorney for Washington, NC Road Construction
The North Carolina Department of Transportation has a plan in place to upgrade nearly two miles of 15th Street in Washington, NC. This plan includes adding a median and left-turn lanes and stretches from Carolina Avenue across to US 264. While the goal of this plan is to improve safety for drivers and pedestrians in this area as well as lower traffic congestion, dozens of homes, businesses, and churches lie on this road. Of the estimated $16,2 million budgeted for this project, the amount for property acquisition has not been disclosed.
The 15th Street Improvement Project Timeline
Due to COVID-19 and the budget changes it required in early 2020, many NCDOT projects have been put on hold, including the 15th Street Improvement Project. It’s currently on the calendar to begin right of way acquisition in 2025. If you currently live along this stretch of road where you could be impacted by this road construction, a right of way representative from NCDOT may reach out to you before then. Before this happens and you’re caught off guard, it’s important to speak with an eminent domain attorney in North Carolina if you’re concerned your property may be affected by this road construction project.
What is Eminent Domain?
Eminent domain refers to the US or state government’s right to obtain property from private citizens as long as they are fairly compensated . In the past, property obtained via eminent domain could only be used for projects deemed to favor public good, but the Supreme Court Case Kelo v. City of New London determined that the government can also use eminent domain on behalf of private developers to further economic development or run utilities.
NCDOT projects are considered beneficial to the public good, therefore, a fair use of eminent domain. However, property owners still deserve fair compensation which is often not offered from the state, which is why it’s necessary to speak with an experienced eminent domain attorney can provide guidance and ensure that you are treated fairly.
What is Land Condemnation?
In an eminent domain case, land condemnation refers to the actual seizure of property. Basically, while eminent domain is the right to take land, land condemnation is the act of taking it (with fair compensation). This in no way refers to condemning land or property because it’s unsafe or hazardous.
What is the Eminent Domain Process in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, once a public project, like adding medians and turning lanes to 15th Street, is announced, they hold meetings that are open to the public. If your property is in the vicinity of a project, you can learn more about the project and if your property will be affected. If it’s determined that your property may be acquired under eminent domain, contact an attorney immediately to help guide you through the process.
One thing that’s important to know is that even a small portion of your land is affected, the value of the property you keep may decrease. Also, the nature of the project itself can affect your property value. For example, if the state wants to use the front three feet of your yard, that’s worth a specific amount. However, if the road addition will bring more noise, trucks, and traffic, that can reduce your property value and you should be fairly compensated for this, too.
Here’s what you can expect:
- The government will send an agent to inspect and appraise your property.
- An appraiser selected by yourself and your eminent domain lawyer appraises the property.
- The government will make an offer. Do not assume that the initial offer will be fair. The first offer will be based on an appraiser hired by the government,
- If the property owner and the government agree on compensation, the sale will move forward.
- If compensation cannot be agreed upon, eminent domain proceedings will begin.
Eminent Domain Proceedings
Eminent domain proceedings can occur without prior negotiations. Here’s how it works:
- The government initiates the eminent domain proceeding by filing a complaint and declaration of taking in the superior court of the county where the property is located.
- The property owner or NCDOT requests the appointment of commissioners within 60 days after the property owner files their answer to the complaint. The commissioners are disinterested property owners residing in the county.
- The commissioners will visit the property, hear testimony, and hold hearings to determine compensation.
- If the property owner is still not satisfied with the compensation, he or she can appeal within 30 days and the case will be heard by a jury.
Eminent Domain Resources for Landowners
The NCDOT does try to minimize the number of homes and businesses affected by its projects, mainly to help save money, but sometimes, it is unavoidable. Fortunately, the NCDOT offers relocation assistance for residents and businesses displaced by eminent domain as well as paying for their property. This assistance can come in the form of rent payments, moving costs, and paying for property storage, if necessary. An eminent domain lawyer can assist you in determining the type of assistance you are qualified to receive.
Eminent Domain Lawyer in Washington, NC
If your property lies on 15th Street, between Carolina Avenue and US 264, NCDOT may acquire it using eminent domain, and you may eligible for more than simply the cost of your land. The experienced eminent domain lawyers of Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, LLP will review your case and help you receive just compensation, as well as any related assistance funds in which you are entitled. In some cases, you may be eligible for compensation for business losses as well.
If you are contacted by a Right of Way agent regarding this project, call our law firm immediately at (919) 615-2473 or complete the form below to speak with us about eminent domain and land condemnation. We will guide you through the process and ensure that you are fairly compensated for your time, property, and any other associated costs.