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Homeowners in DOT's path seek legal relief

Posted August 30, 2013
Updated January 6, 2015

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— Hundreds of property owners in Wake and Johnston counties live in a protected corridor – the North Carolina Department of Transportation has designated their land for future road construction. At any time, DOT could decide to act on that claim.

That state of limbo – which has lasted more than 15 years for some – has homeowners itching to sue, but so far, the courts have said they don't have a case.

A similar situation exists in Forsyth County around Winston-Salem, and those property owners have a hearing with the state Supreme Court next week. Kelley Wingo is one of those In the Triangle who will be watching that case very closely. She is one of about 150 property owners in the protected corridor set aside for the future southern loop of N.C. Highway 540.

"Who is going to buy this property," she said. "No one can sell, and no one can move on."

Wingo and others say their hands are tied.

"Who is going to come buy this property? Because they're going to look at it and they're going say DOT is going through it," she said.

Legal wrangling about the route for the so-called southern loop has her and others in an endless wait-and-see cycle. DOT might never act. There is no guarantee the highway will be built and no time frame for a decision.

In the meantime, property owners like Wingo have little control over the property they pay taxes on.

"To build my barn on my property, I had to get DOT's approval, and you have to go through a whole process," she said.

In Forsyth County, courts have decided that property owners did not qualify for a class action suit, ruling that each property is different and owners should not sue as a group. Next week, those owners will appeal that decision.

Wingo says the impact and damage to property owners is the same, and it doesn't make sense to require separate trials.

"The problem is, as individuals, how can you stand up against DOT?" she asked.

12 Comments

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  • common tater Aug 30, 2013

    And soon they are going to give away your mineral rights to the frackers...definite abuse of power.

  • mep Aug 30, 2013

    The joy and perils of eminent domain laws and the DOT in every State. Bottom line, the DOT has the right to build, not build it today, or not build it for another 20 years. They will site Federal funding delays, impact studies... whatever it takes to hold their claim. In Texas, we had a road for the DOT take the first 15ft of land off of our property... then WE had to remove the houses front porch AND cut off the eves and gutters. The DOT would neither pay for those "improvements", or pay to have the house moved, or pay for the entire house. We ended up with peanuts for the land, and sold the house with the intent the land was not part of the sale. We got peanuts for the house too... and not really enough land left to build on unless you dont mind a major highway as a front lawn.

    Yup... happens every day.

  • boylan99 Aug 30, 2013

    "The route has been in the plans for 20 years. Sorry if you didn't look into right a ways when you bought your house! too bad so sad." Arthur downtown

    Many of those landowners have owned their land WAY more than 20 years. To bad so sad. The NCDOT is wrong on this.

  • miseem Aug 30, 2013

    The route has been in the plans for 20 years. Sorry if you didn't look into right a ways when you bought your house! too bad so sad.
    Arthur downtown.

    Thse people owned the land before the DOT laid out proposed routes. No one can sell, no one can buy the land that was in the proposed right of way. And no one can make any improvements without DOT approval. This is not to cover careless buyers. It's to get some settlement for people that have owned that land for OVER 20 years but cannot do anything with it. For land adjacent to it, the right of way should have been disclosed prior to sale, but DOT does no have any control over properties not in their right of way.

  • rlk Aug 30, 2013

    NCDOT should either release the properties or buy them at fair market value. boylan99

    Good luck getting dot, or any other government agency, town, or utility to pay fair market value. Not going to happen unless you are a big political contributor.

    Tree Farmer

  • cn38of50 Aug 30, 2013

    DOT should go ahead and buy the property...if they don't use it...they can sell it again. The limbo nightmare is ridiculous!

  • Fastglass Aug 30, 2013

    "If the NCDOT wishes to build a highway, they need to convince the people to sell the land as any private entity would have to. That is how the free market works. To simply take someone's property by force is theft and tyranny."

    Apparently you're not familiar with eminent domain. If the gov't did not have the power to take land for public use, the highways you travel on today would not exist in their current form. They would be an inefficent way to travel inter-state if it was based on land they could acquire by owners that are only willing to sell.

    I think the issue here is that it has been 15-20 years in the decision making process. During this time, no one can sell because prospective buyers are too scared.

  • boylan99 Aug 30, 2013

    NCDOT should either release the properties or buy them at fair market value.

  • Frank Downtown Aug 30, 2013

    The route has been in the plans for 20 years. Sorry if you didn't look into right a ways when you bought your house! too bad so sad.

  • 37 Aug 30, 2013

    Here come the complainers talking about tolling when it is completely unrelated. Just wait.

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