At last, some good news for property owners in North Carolina. The Court of Appeals has directed the Department of Transportation to pay property owners for harm it caused by using a little known law to tie up the use of their property for more than 26 years. Since 1989, the state, through its Department of Transportation, has been preventing land owners from building on or improving their own real estate. If it happened to be located in areas that might be affected by future highway bypass projects, the Transportation Corridor Official Map Act allowed the state to map large areas of land around cities where the state thought it might someday want to build a bypass.
And while the state was deciding whether and when and if to build these bypasses, the Map Act let it prohibit land owners from improving or building on property they owned within the mapped areas. The Department of Transportation has been filing these maps in order to depress property values around potential bypasses, so that the state can later buy the properties for less than their actual worth if and when the state decides to build a bypass.
This has been most apparent around North Carolina’s urban centers, near interstate highways, and areas including Raleigh and Wake County, Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, Greensboro and Guilford County, Shelby and Cleveland County, Wilmington and Pender-New Hanover Counties, Greenville and Pitt County, Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, Goldsboro and Wayne County, Fayetteville and Cumberland County.
In a nutshell, property owners have been prevented from obtaining building permits, doing renovations on their homes or businesses, subdividing or otherwise developing their land. And they also haven’t been able to sell their property, because who wants to buy land which may someday be part of a highway? Well, on February 17, 2015 the North Carolina Court of Appeals, in Kirby versus the North Carolina Department of Transportation, finally struck down the actions of the state and has told the state that they can no longer tie up properties for an indefinite amount of time without paying the owners for the resulting damages.
In this ruling, the court has told the state that they must pay land owners for their land, even if they’re not ready to move forward with the project. The court said that this was inverse condemnation, because the state effectively took the land by rendering it of little or no value by not letting them use the land the way they wanted. Ann Fischer and I currently represent a number of land owners who have similar inverse condemnation claims stemming from the Map Act. If you’re interested in learning more about your legal rights involving this inverse condemnation, as well as your rights to make claims for attorney’s fees and interest, give us a call at 800-452-9633, or visit our website at www.nclandlawyer.com.