NCDOT Moves Forward With I-95 Expansion Project

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says that widening an eight-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Lumberton will decrease flooding, increase safety, and decrease congestion.

The proposed $432 million extension is “long overdue,” asserted state Transportation Board member Grady Hunt. “This vital corridor needs to be widened, but also upgraded to be more resilient against future hurricanes,” he added. A joint venture company based in Morrisville obtained a design-build contract. NCDOT claims this arrangement is more efficient, since one company handles most of the work.

Phase One involves improvements to the existing concrete barriers on this stretch of I-95. Phase Two is the widening project, which includes some safety improvements. Phase Three would replace several flood-prone bridges. Flooding during Hurricanes Florence and Matthew closed the freeway for several days.

Budget cuts, mostly related to COVID-19, have delayed this project several times.

What to Do After Receiving Notice of an Eminent Domain Procedure

Huge freeway projects like the I-95 expansion almost inevitably affect private property owners. Just when a new freeway will cause property values to skyrocket, government entities like NCDOT use their eminent domain property seizure powers to take property and offer pennies on the dollar. There is no legal way to stop land seizure procedures once they start. However, property owners still have important rights. To exercise these rights, it is important to follow the following steps:

  • Understand What’s Happening: Many property owners do not grasp the nature of the situation. In their minds, the matter is essentially a real estate transaction as opposed to a legal action. But that is not the case. For example, assume NCDOT demands an easement on a remote strip of land to widen a road. NCDOT’s lawyers probably drafted the proposed easement, so there may be some provisions therein which could affect property rights for years to come.
  • Obtain Legal Help: Since eminent domain is a legal proceeding, you need legal representation. Easement and other eminent domain title transfers are nothing like the form agreements regarding leases and other basic real estate transactions. Only an experienced Charlotte land condemnation attorney can give you the best possible advice.
  • Get a Second Opinion: The eminent domain notice, which could be written or oral, usually includes a purchase proposal based on the land’s value. You have the absolute right to obtain a second opinion. In many cases, the state pays for at least part of this appraisal. An independent appraiser’s valuation is often quite different from the state’s appraisal.
  • Accept, Negotiate, or Fight: Property owners have these three basic options in eminent domain matters. If the proposed offer is reasonably fair, there may be no reason to contest the proceedings. It may be better to sign on the dotted line and move on. In almost all cases, however, the state’s initial offer does not provide just compensation. So, a Charlotte land condemnation attorney can negotiate for a better price. Finally, especially if there is a technical deficiency in the state’s request, it may be best to fight the proceeding in its entirety.

Time often plays a role here. Property values usually rise over time, especially if a new freeway or other significant public access project is involved.

What NOT To Do After Receiving Notice of an Eminent Domain Action

In the wake of an eminent domain notice, many property owners unintentionally do things which may be very damaging. Some things to avoid include:

  • Do not file amended property tax returns or other documents which indicate a lower property value. These documents could be used against you later.
  • Even seemingly harmless documents, like a right of access, could have damaging effects months or years down the road. So, do not sign anything until you talk to a Charlotte land condemnation attorney.
  • Many owners become fatalistic in these situations. They think that since property seizure is usually inevitable, there is no point in spending time, energy, or other resources to fight the outcome. But you still have important rights, and unless you partner with a Charlotte land condemnation attorney, the state might effectively trample those rights.

To conserve resources during eminent domain actions, many landowners work with other affected landowners. This resource pooling decreases costs for everyone. So, do not let the potential cost of a fight discourage you from standing up for your rights.

Work with an Effective Mecklenburg County Attorney

The government cannot take private property for any purpose without paying just compensation. For a confidential consultation with an experienced land condemnation attorney in Charlotte, contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC.