As you read through this checklist, ask yourself: “Would I rather have an experienced attorney complete these items for me?” If the answer is yes, don’t wait. If you hire an attorney early on a contingency basis, it costs you the same. This also reduces the risk of making a serious mistake. We’ve found many people think it might be easier to deal with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on their own. If you’re of that mindset, here’s a checklist that might be helpful as you spend what could be the next several months (sometimes years) fighting with the NCDOT for a fair offer for your property. Determine whether a second opinion in the form of an independent appraiser is necessary or helpful to your case. (This may not be as easy as you’d think. Here’s why.) Determine whether a local appraiser has the qualifications to perform an appraisal for an eminent domain case, and whether that appraiser would do well in front of a jury, if needed. Contact the condemning agency to obtain a copy of the plans as they relate to your property — and possibly nearby properties. Document every contact with the condemning agency,...Read More
Q&A With Eminent Domain Attorneys Stan Adams, Jason Campbell and Kenneth Bryan When property owners get a letter from the government stating that they plan to seize their home, business, or land under eminent domain for a new road or other project, they have a lot of questions. Eminent domain is complicated. And often that is why property owners come to us. There can be a lot of confusion and they want answers to their questions. We sat down with NC Eminent Domain Law Firm attorneys Stan Abrams, Jason Campbell, and Kenneth Bryan to discuss some key property owner concerns. 1. How do I know that what the government offers me is fair? Kenneth: When the government wants your land, North Carolina law says they must pay what’s fair. But “fair” is relative. We represented a cattle farmer whose land the government took and built a major highway clean through his ancestral property, forcing him to quit the cattle business. (And to boot, he had to drive 2 miles down the new highway just to get to the other side of his land.) Was that fair? Another client of ours, who had owned a seafood business in Durham for...Read More
By Ken Bryan Safety and efficiency are always a priority when planning communities, towns, and cities. From the street designs, to sidewalks, bus stops, and crosswalks, engineers take many factors into consideration before handing over their blueprints to the builders. Thanks to innovative research and design, modern street designs have been improving the welfare and community aspect of the places we live, work, learn, and play. Yet to property and business owners whose land is taken for the streets or for a right of way, it can become a financial burden. Here, we offer a bit of information on four street designs you may have seen being constructed in North Carolina towns and communities. And we offer information on what you can do if your property lies in the NCDOT’s crosshairs when building these new street designs. Superstreets Almost half of all car wrecks occur at intersections. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) puts this figure right at 40%. It is not surprising then that NC towns and cities are incorporating more superstreet designs into community and urban planning. Superstreets are designed primarily to try to eliminate the dangers of left turns at intersections. Their construction has been proven...Read More
Sometimes it may seem as though, if you are a business owner in North Carolina, the eminent domain laws are stacked against you. Many of our business clients would agree. That is why they came to us. Two of us used to work as Attorneys General for the state representing the NCDOT. Why did we leave the NCDOT to go to work fighting for individual property owners? We saw too many property owners, business owners in particular, leaving good money on the bargaining table. And we wanted to do something about it. Why Does it Seem Business Owners Face More Obstacles? While it is true businesses can often face a tougher uphill climb with respect to getting paid for damages to their property, this is by no means done on purpose. Rather it is an unfortunate result in how North Carolina’s eminent domain laws have been cobbled together over many years – some dating back to the early part of the 20th century when we were still an agricultural state. Our state has grown so fast, particularly over the last couple of decades, some laws and statutes that probably should not be on the books, still remain. And some can...Read More
If you have received a condemnation letter from the NCDOT we urge you to contact an eminent domain attorney. But make sure you ask the right questions to try to get the attorney that is best suited to your situation. Here are some questions to start with – some may surprise you. Does your firm focus solely on eminent domain cases? When it comes to your life’s work and the business you’ve invested in you probably don’t want a general lawyer – the guy who wrote your will, fixed your traffic ticket, or handled your home closing. There are just too many nuances in eminent domain law – and many of them may not be recognizable to someone who doesn’t practice eminent domain law day in and day out. That’s what we do. That’s all we do. And we think it shows in how we fight for our clients. Here’s what one client had to say: “Mr. Bryan was a non-anxious presence for us at every step of the way, and he handled many desperate phone calls from us over the past years. We were encouraged by his professionalism, his strength of character and his willingness to fight for us,...Read More
When the government wants your property or business to build a highway, you're likely to have questions and concerns. Recently I had the privilege of speaking with a group of concerned property owners from Southeastern Wake County who shared some very valid right-of-way concerns over the N.C. 540 Southeast extension project. The News & Observer Property owners to be advised of rights during NC 540 extension work These questions, although deeply personal to each property owner, are pretty typical of the types of questions we might hear at our land taking seminars all across North Carolina. We'll be blogging about these and other questions in the near future, but for now, I wanted to share some of these legitimate concerns with you. What happens if the government takes my well? You can't live without water. The condemning authority must provide access to city water or dig you another well, if possible. If that is not possible, they will have to provide another place for you to live. How close can the road come to my home? I've seen roads and easements come as close as 10 feet away from someone's primary residence. For obvious reasons, this is not advisable. However,...Read More
The concept of Complete Streets is pretty simple. It's a roadway that is functionally and aesthetically designed for everyone including cyclists and pedestrians - not just cars, trucks, and busses. That's why they are called "complete" streets. East Blvd., Charlotte. Courtesy: CompletestreetsNC.org It's a fairness for all concept - except those whose properties lie in their pathways. If your property is affected by one of North Carolina's proliferating Complete Streets projects, things may be far from "fair" from your perspective. Here, we explain why the NCDOT is suddenly interested in constructing Complete Streets in North Carolina, and what you can do if your property is needed for one. Why Complete Streets in North Carolina? In 2009, new NCDOT roadway policy changes mandated that, going forward, when they design new streets, the agency must consider all modes of transportation as they relate to safety, mobility, and accessibility. Complete Streets Benefits As more of us become more conscientious of our own health and that of the earth and its environment, many are seeking ways to replace their carbon footprint with their actual footprint by driving less and walking more. Still others enjoy taking the bus or bicycling to work or to run errands....Read More
I’m coming clean.
I can’t stand caviar.
First (only) time I tried it I felt like Tom Hanks in the movie Big when he’s at the buffet table, tries a spoonful, and couldn’t spit it out fast enough.
And I’ll never understand why people pay tens of thousands of dollars for the stuff. Yet some of my friends and colleagues love these putrid little pearls. And they keep insisting that the more I “understand” its “complexity” the better it will taste.
I’ll take their word for it.
I don’t need to understand my food. And I don’t need it to be complex. I just want to enjoy it – and not have to pay a semester’s college tuition for it.
So what does my confession have to do with eminent domain?
My distaste for caviar and the fact that I wouldn’t pay a dime for the stinky stuff came to mind when I was trying to explain to a client why we felt it would be imprudent for her to get her own appraisal after the NCDOT came to her with a low ball offer.Read More
NC Property Owners Likely Owed Millions After Map Act Reversal -- Lawmakers Respond by Capping Interest
The Fayetteville Outer Loop is a North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) project which has been restricting property owners since it was first identified in the NCDOT’s corridor map in 1992 – 24 years ago. Construction didn’t begin until well over a decade later. And the project has several more years to go.
When completed, the 39-mile-long freeway will bypass Fayetteville and connect Fort Bragg to I-95. That’s good news for local Fayetteville traffic and interstate travelers who will finally be able to skirt the city without getting ensnarled in local traffic.
But this project has been nothing but bad news for more than 300 property owners in the Loop’s path.
They’ve been stuck in limbo for years – more than 20 years in many cases. Why? The North Carolina Map Act limited them from improving, subdividing, or developing their land once the state targeted it for future development. And they are very unlikely to be able to sell their property for a fair price because of all the restrictions potentially limiting its value.Read More
So the NCDOT doesn't want your entire property. They just want to pay you for an easement to access your home or business property for utility lines. Or maybe they just want to run a drainage pipe underneath your property -- or temporarily park construction equipment, while widening a nearby road. (That's not so bad, you think.) Pay close attention to that easement agreement. They will likely pay you one time and one time only. Even if they come back in 10 or 15 years and decide they need to raise a utility pole in your front yard, or build a power transformer, or dig that drainage ditch deeper, you may not get paid any more. When a government agency wants to take your land for an easement or a right of way, here's some free advice... Get an attorney to read the fine print carefully, footnotes and all. Many eminent domain attorneys will likely do this for free! If you're thinking, "Well that's because you're lawyers," you're exactly right. As lawyers (two of whom used to represent the NCDOT), we've seen what can happen to unsuspecting property owners who don't fully understand what an easement contract may potentially imply...Read More