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New highway threatens to displace Durham property owners

Posted September 20, 2012

— Dozens of Durham property owners are weighing their options as the state moves ahead with plans to build a long-awaited highway, known as the East End Connector, right on top of their properties.

Improving travel versus taking private land is the trade-off of every major road project, and the state Department of Transportation will soon start the difficult process of buying the land or taking it by eminent domain.

The nearly $200 million project will have eight lanes to connect N.C. Highway 147 and U.S. Highway 70. The connector and related widening will tie in Interstate 85 from the north to Interstate 40 and beyond. It will also ease heavy truck traffic on downtown Durham streets.

If land acquisition goes as planned, East End Connector construction is set to begin in about two years.

“This is the last missing link that ties all this together with each other and with I-85. It's a critical link for our freeway system. We need it for our future,” said Joe Milazzo, with the Regional Transportation Alliance. “It's been the top priority of the City of Durham, Durham County, Durham Metro Planners (and) the Durham Chamber.”

The progress comes at a price. Just south of East End Avenue is Durham's Hayestown community. More than 150 parcels of land will be impacted by the connector. Twenty-one homes and 15 businesses must go.

East End Connector New highway threatens to displace Durham property owners

Rev. Sylvester Williams said he believes nothing good can come from the project.

“These are places where African-Americans have historically lived in the city of Durham. They're all being displaced,” he said.

Jim Lindsley, who owns a waterproofing business, will see a third of his property shaved off by an expanded cloverleaf right-of-way. He says he wishes the DOT would have considered alternative ideas.

“I don't have a problem with the greater good,” Lindsley said. “My biggest concern is that they're not going to make an offer that will enable us to make the transition.”

DOT engineer Wally Bowman says property owners are impacted with every major road project and that he can’t “make everybody 100 percent happy.”

“We’re trying to do the best we can,” he said, urging property owners to be patient.

“We can't settle with everybody at the same time,” he said. “We're going to offer you what the fair market of what your property is today.”

The North Carolina Eminent Domain Law Firm is holding an informational meeting on property owner rights at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Downtown Durham Marriott. The DOT is holding another meeting next Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Orange Grove Mission Church.

East End Connector

47 Comments

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  • dcatz Sep 24, 2:43 p.m.

    "Well actually it does if they have the power to enforce it. The laws were written by properly elected officials, the fact that you don't agree is irrelevent. The Supreme court does agree."

    You assume that because a bunch of robed shysters say something, that it automatically becomes moral.

    These people have signed no agreement in which they have given any state or government the right to take their property away. Elections are irrelevant. "Democracy" does not give one the right to commit an act of aggression upon another person.

  • superman Sep 24, 9:43 a.m.

    If they didnt have people living there and needing the road they wouldnt have to build it. Just where do you think they going to build a road if they dont have to buy land and relocate people. We like new roads to get us quickly to work but then we dont want them to impact us. It is that feeling that I dont care about you but please leave me alone. If they build a road people and business are going to be affected. It is that simple so get over it. I dont like paying taxes when over 60% is spent on eduction and we dont have children. We are paying to educate your children. We dont think things are fair when they affect us but it is ok if it affects other people.

  • Crabbit Cratur Sep 21, 3:01 p.m.

    "Property tax value is mandated by law to be the fair market value."

    True but the market value of any one bit of land is in reality what someone is willing to pay for it and what someone is willing to sell it for......in reality that is an unknown for most property. So they guess and from time to time revise that guess. Its not a reliable measure of the value of any one piece of land.

  • Crabbit Cratur Sep 21, 2:57 p.m.

    "What law? Simply because a gang of criminal thieves have written down some words on a piece of paper and called it law does not make it so."

    Well actually it does if they have the power to enforce it.

    The laws were written by properly elected officials, the fact that you don't agree is irrelevent. The Supreme court does agree.

    "Man has a natural right to own property. This right extends from the natural right of self-determination and self-ownership."

    Where does it say that? and where does it say you have the right to own a specific property?

    " Without self-ownership, man is unable to exercise his human nature to expand, grow, develop, and think. Any aggression on his property is immoral, regardless of how any other people you think it benefits."

    Where do you get this nonsense from?

    "If a group of people wish to build a new highway, then they need to negotiate with the property owners to come to a voluntary deal."

    You can leave voluntarily or forcibly the result is the same.

  • sweetsea2 Sep 21, 12:36 p.m.

    Property tax value is mandated by law to be the fair market value. County tax appraisers are charged with this mandate to derive a fair market value to be assessed for all property in their respective counties. I agree with eminent domain and the right for public taking for absolutely essential public needs but full market value should be paid when it is utilized plus damages, if any, to remaining property. The State is often driven by non meritoriouis factors such as the pot of right of way acquisition money is low so they try to stretch it by sticking it to the property owners. The government reps talk out of both sides of their mouths.

  • SaveEnergyMan Sep 21, 11:53 a.m.

    "Interesting that these projects never seem to go through affluent areas."

    Of course they don't. Why would the gov't want to pay MORE for the property and the project than they have to. Cost is not the only factor - you do have to connect the two highways in the shortest distance, but it must be considered. Also considered is environmental issues - ask the Town of Garner about the Outer Loop project.

    I agree that fair value should be based on what the property tax value is. If it's good enough to tax on, then it's good enough to pay people for it. Adjustments up can be made if market conditions necessitate.

  • dcatz Sep 21, 11:38 a.m.

    "What do you expect if you do not obey the law? Why should property owners be above the law? what makes you so special?"

    What law? Simply because a gang of criminal thieves have written down some words on a piece of paper and called it law does not make it so.

    Man has a natural right to own property. This right extends from the natural right of self-determination and self-ownership. Without self-ownership, man is unable to exercise his human nature to expand, grow, develop, and think. Any aggression on his property is immoral, regardless of how any other people you think it benefits.

    If a group of people wish to build a new highway, then they need to negotiate with the property owners to come to a voluntary deal.

  • Crabbit Cratur Sep 21, 11:27 a.m.

    "Eminent Domain is a joke."

    Many have found out otherwise.

    " Nothing gives the State the right to seize privately held property, against the wishes of the owners. "

    Wrong, the law quite specifically does that and SCOTUS has upheld that.

    "In fact, the very *purpose* of the State is to protect private property rights,"

    Is it? please show that to be the case.

    " so in this regard the State is not only failing to live up to it's duty, it's actively violating the most fundamental precept on which its existence is based!"

    you have not established that to be the case.

  • Crabbit Cratur Sep 21, 11:24 a.m.

    "If you or I aren't authorized to do something, the State cannot be authorized to do it either."

    I love it when people show that they have no clue what "Power" means......

  • Crabbit Cratur Sep 21, 11:23 a.m.

    "I invite anyone who is having their land stolen via eminent domain to refuse to give it up and to refuse to leave it. At some point, the government will send men with guns to forcefully remove you from the property. THAT is violence."

    What do you expect if you do not obey the law? Why should property owners be above the law? what makes you so special?

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