In March we posted about the financial woes of the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. The NCDOT had pre-existing budget issues that were compounded by a sudden plunge in revenue as the traffic volumes dropped dramatically last year.
State estimates put the decrease in daily traffic down as much as 50% in April and May 2020. As of April 27, 2020, the NCDOT was projecting a $300 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30th with significant impacts on the next fiscal year of nearly $370 million.
The budget shortfall raised issues for owners in the path of projects across the state
In order to absorb the hit of this shortfall, the NCDOT has taken cost-reduction actions, delaying payment for many settlements agreed to before the extent of the budget issues was fully known. Additionally, projects across the state were placed on hold so the NCDOT could complete construction of projects already underway.
In 2020 the NCDOT announced that they were delaying many of their projects. Because many of these projects were delayed from mid-2020 to mid-2021, we expect to see a sharp increase in projects moving forward and Right of Way (ROW) agents contacting property owners in the near future. Revenue has increased for the NCDOT as traffic levels rise, along with the higher fuel tax, allowing the NCDOT to resume these projects using their new timeline.
The question we keep getting asked by property owners is, “What should I do if my project was impacted by pandemic/budget delays?” We have a few suggestions that will help you stay on top of your case.
First thing’s first. If you are already one of our clients, there is nothing you need to do. We are actively tracking your case and have this handled for you. We’re always here to help and want to relieve any stress you may have. If you are concerned that your project is moving forward, feel free to reach out to us – we’re happy to talk to you!
Now, if you are not already one of our clients:
#1 Get the latest, most updated information
The NCDOT is constantly shifting around their schedule for projects, pushing some out and beginning others that were not planned to start for years. This makes it especially difficult for property owners to maintain an accurate idea of when their particular project is set to begin. We speak with many North Carolina property owners who say essentially the same thing: “The NCDOT (or City of Raleigh, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, etc.) never let me know anything. The only contact I received was from the North Carolina Eminent Domain Law Firm.”
Others tell me they receive a letter from the ROW agent demanding the property owner “contact them within 10 days” only to not hear back from the ROW agent for months. We track the latest project information, timelines, and progress and can help keep you well-informed of changes. Give us a call or contact us online. We can do the research on your behalf and explain to you what is going on.
#2 Don’t believe the project dates
Even if your project states that it is still a year or two away, that may mean that the actual construction date will begin in a year or two. That does not necessarily mean that acquisitions will be that far out. We generally see acquisitions beginning a year or more ahead of the construction start date. If your project is five years or more out, we are still happy to help you and take away the stress of trying to keep up with when your project is starting. The ROW agent likely will not contact you anytime soon unless your project gets bumped up to an earlier start date.
It happens far too frequently that property owners are told their project will begin any day only to be placed in limbo for years with little or no communication. One of the most crucial reasons we tell people not to wait for an offer before hiring an attorney is that both you and your attorney can stay informed and hit the ground running once the project does begin. A key service we provide our clients is keeping them informed of changes in their project.
For example, we keep tabs on projects scheduled up to a decade into the future, making regular contact with the ROW agents and communicating changes to our clients. When we learn of a change, we can let you know of the change.
#3 Hire an attorney
If you’re aware that your project is starting soon, the best advice we can give you is to reach out to an attorney today. If any of our family or friends asked us what the first thing they should do is, we would tell them to find an attorney to help. We hope it is our firm that you reach out to, but even if you go with a different attorney, the most important thing is to get legal help.
Eminent Domain is a complicated area of the law with many nuances. On top of that, the NCDOT has its own set of regulations and procedures it must follow. We have three attorneys who formerly worked for the NCDOT and now use their knowledge for property owners.
There are attorneys who will not take your case because it’s too small. There are also attorneys who don’t have the resources or knowledge to handle complicated commercial cases. For us, no case is too large or too small. We are equipped to provide top level representation on cases with $500 offers, $50,000,000 offers, and everything in between.
How can the North Carolina Eminent Domain Law Firm help me?
Here at the North Carolina Eminent Domain Law Firm, we know that the last year has been stressful for many people. Add the stress of having the government exercise its power to take part of your property and the situation can get very frustrating very quickly. We want to help relieve that stress as best we can. Our five attorneys handle nothing but eminent domain cases. Let us use our knowledge and resources to help ensure that you are treated fairly if your property will be taken.