The Map Act: What if…?
Imagine you’ve bought a new car. You’ve got all sorts of plans for it. It’s going to take you to work and to the grocery store, but it’s also going to take you to the beach and the mountains, and to see family in another part of the state. The possibilities are endless.
Now let’s say the state comes along and says it’s going to buy that car from you, eventually, but in the meantime, the car cannot be used for anything other than taking you to work and back. Further, if you sell the car, the future owner can also only use it to take them to work and back. The state is doing this to keep miles off the car for its own use and make the car cheaper to buy in the future. In the meantime, you’re left with a car that’s not worth as much as you paid for it – since it only goes to work and back – and that will be near impossible to sell! For this inconvenience, the state gives you nothing.
If that freeze on free use of one’s property only lasted a short while, it might be something owners could endure. If the state paid the owners a fee of some kind for the freeze, perhaps that would be fine. The state did neither.
In fact, many property owners faced indefinite freezes, and some properties languished under the state’s freeze for 20 years or more. It does not take an attorney to see how unfair that is to property owners.
Thus, what the Map Act did was allow the NCDOT to, in effect, prevent development and valuable use of properties for indefinite periods of time, suppressing their value and forcing property owners to simply wait and see. Property owners began to resist, and the landmark case that brought the Map Act down was Kirby v. NCDOT, when a group of Forsyth County property owners sued the NCDOT.
In 2016, their case made it to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the limitations imposed on property owners and the indefinite nature of those limitations amounted to a taking of the property for which the state was required to pay. This included rent, property taxes, and interest.
Landowners who sought legal representation had fought the law, and won.