Raleigh, N.C. — Following a recent state Court of Appeals ruling that put the state on the hook for paying Forsyth County property owners in the path of a proposed highway, the General Assembly is looking at scrapping the law that led to the court case.
The Map Act was adopted in 1987 to set aside corridors for future highways before they became developed. Property owners in those corridors have complained for years, however, saying the designation prevents them from improving their land and discourages anyone from buying property in the corridor.
Jim Deans, whose land in southern Wake County has been in the corridor for the N.C. Highway 540 tool road since 1996, said he hasn't been able to unload the 17 acres he wanted to sell to help fund his retirement.
"We're watching the trees grow. We're paying taxes on it.But we can't sell it, and we can't develop it," Deans said.
What's worse, he said, is after more than two decades in limbo, the state Department of Transportation could eventually choose not to buy his land for the highway, meaning he gets nothing for waiting all that time.
The Map Act violates the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, Deans said, noting his property and others have been taken for public use without just compensation.
The Court of Appeals said as much last month when it ruled that DOT must compensate property owners in a protected corridor for a highway north of Winston-Salem. The judges said the Map Act was simply a tool for the state to hold down the cost of property acquisition for roads and effectively put the state in control of private property for years without any benefit to the property owners.
"This is a bad law that has been used in a vary bad way on too many people for too long," Matthew Bryant, an attorney for the Forsyth County property owners, told lawmakers Tuesday.
Rep. Rayne Brown, R-Davidson, a primary sponsor of House Bill 183, which would repeal the Map Act, said North Carolina built highways for decades before the law was passed and can do so again.
The House Transportation Committee is expected to discuss the bill next week.