Property owners file suit over expressway

road (AP)
November 22, 2011 11:50:10 AM PST
Property owners in path of the long-planned Southern Wake Expressway have filed a class action lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Turnpike Authority .

The N.C. Turnpike Authority is expected to begin construction in 2014 on the final 30-mile section of the I-540 Outer Loop through southern and eastern Wake County.

The project has languished for 20 years as the N.C. Department of Transportation was unable to secure funding. Current plans are to build the six-lane expressway from Apex to Knightdale as a toll road.

The lawsuit says the state is taking private property without paying just compensation, as required by the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit names five plaintiffs, but says over 125 property owners own over 250 parcels of land in the path of the Southern Wake Expressway.

"We kept waiting and waiting and waiting and eventually you get to the point where, you know, we need to do something," property owner Jim Deans said. "I'm not growing any younger."

Click here to read the lawsuit

The property owners want the state to buy their property and reimburse them for the property taxes they've paid in the 15 years since their land was marked as part of the highway's route. According to the lawsuit, the NCDOT began placing homeowners' property into protected corridors in 1996.

"Either buy it or release it," Deans said. "You know, just don't hold control over the land and deny us our right to dispose of it as we'd like to."

And property owners along that route who have sued say they not only want the state to pay for their property with interest now, but not at the current market rate.

"Land values today are not what they were two years ago," Deans said. "So we're not looking for a depressed value. We're looking for a value either at the time that they put it in corridor protection or at some viable time in between."

Ultimately, they want the law changed. They say they know the state has to build roads, but shouldn't be allowed to put property owners in limbo.

The first segment of the state's first toll road will open in a few weeks, $40 million under budget and three weeks ahead of schedule.

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