Four-lane bypass tarnishes plans to live out golden years on family farm

Fight for fairness
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Nobody knew about it at that time.

Many years ago, Patrick Johnson bought 13-acres in Wayne County that once belonged to his grandfather and had been in the family for hundreds of years. Having lived in Atlanta for many years, Patrick was ready to move back to the old home place and build a nice little house in the woods where he could have a bit of privacy.

“When you live around Atlanta,” Patrick laughed, “you want to be by yourself.”

But after buying back the family acreage he’d dreamed of living out his golden years on, Patrick received a notice from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). It told him not to make any improvements on the land without contacting them first. It was the first sign that the NCDOT had their own plans for him and his property.

It was what it was.

In North Carolina, the Department of Transportation has the right to invoke eminent domain and take private property if it is necessary for public use.

At 72 years of age, Patrick felt like he didn’t have the time or energy to negotiate with the state. So when the NCDOT offered him a settlement, Patrick’s mood was indifferent. Not so for his neighbors. Their homes and families were also going to be affected by the road project, and they contacted the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm to see what could be done. Most weren’t just neighbors – they were family – and they decided to all meet together.

They met with Attorney Stan Abrams, who used to work for the NCDOT on similar projects.

“We all had a meeting here at my house with Stan,” Patrick said, “and that’s when the whole lot of us decided to use him. We knew he’d been along the block.”

It was personal, and he’d check in on us.

Abrams and his team were able to prove to the NCDOT that the damages to Johnson’s land caused by the eminent domain taking were higher than what the state had accounted for. Ultimately the firm was able to double Johnson’s settlement.

“I told everybody,” Patrick recalled, and said that if another friend or family member runs into the same problem in the future, he’d send them to Abrams and the North Carolina Eminent Domain Law Firm.

“I’d tell them to call him. He would work for them.”

* Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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