Monroe Bypass/Connector: On Again, Off Again, On Again...
North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) projects are often delayed, modified, rescheduled or even canceled. It is not unusual for a highway project to be completed years after it was originally intended.
The Monroe Bypass/Connector in Union and Mecklenburg Counties certainly fits into the category of projects that have not moved forward as originally planned. In fact, this project has faced more twists and turns than your typical DOT project.
What makes matters worse is that this project impacts hundreds of property owners and these property owners continue to face uncertainty even as the project appears to be moving forward again.
Recent Public Meeting on Monroe Bypass
In December, I attended a DOT public meeting on the Monroe Bypass/Connector project, designed to give property owners affected by this massive project some insight into the current status and what will happen next with this project.
The DOT is required to hold these types of public meetings as part of the process of moving forward with acquiring property for the project and eventually beginning construction. Maybe the best way to understand where the project currently stands is to take a look at some of the history of this project.
The Monroe Bypass/Connector (DOT Project #'s R-2559 and R-3329) is a proposed 19.7 mile road to help alleviate traffic on US 74. If built, the road will be on "new location," which means it does not run along any existing roads/property the DOT already owns and the land will have to be purchased.
The bypass will run from US 74 at I-485 (eastern Mecklenburg County) and rejoin to US 74 between the towns of Wingate and Marshville (Union County). The total cost of this project is estimated to $367,700,000.
For property owners whose land will be affected by the Monroe Bypass, the burning question is: "when will this project get moving?"
The DOT website tells the story when it states that the completion date is "pending legal appeal."
The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit challenging the DOT's environmental findings and impact for this project and, as a result, the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals suspended activities on this project in May of 2012.
Since then, the DOT has undertaken the task of addressing the Court's concerns. The DOT recently released a Draft Supplemental Final Environmental Impact Statement, which purports to address the necessary items.
The public has the opportunity to submit written comments on this report through January 6, 2014. The DOT will then prepare and release a Final Environmental Impact Statement and announce a Record of Decision regarding the project.
It is anticipated that these steps will be completed by the spring of 2014. However, in view of the legal challenges already filed concerning this project, it would not be surprising if more legal challenges are made to the Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.
But, if no legal challenges are made, the DOT could begin the process of acquiring property near the end of 2014.
Affected Property Owners
While the legal process continues to play out, the hundreds of property owners in the path of this huge project are in limbo - making many home and business owners unable to plan effectively for the future.
Many have questions, such as:
- When will I be required to move?
- I need to move now, but what if no one wants to buy my property because it's in the path of the bypass?
- What, if anything, can I do with my property while I am waiting?
- What can I do if this project continues to be on again/off again?
- Is there anything I can do now to prepare for when my property is taken?
If this sounds like you, we may be able to help.
There are some strategies home and business owners can use to try to lessen the effect of a looming project on their ability to develop their land or move. And steps you take now could affect the amount of compensation you receive for your land later.