Owners affected by highway project learn rights

September 20, 2012 8:19:47 PM PDT
Some Durham homeowners got a crash course on eminent domain Thursday evening.

Plans for the controversial East End Connector highway would wipe out their neighborhood and residents are concerned they won't get a fair price for their property.

Property owners met at the convention center for free legal advice.

"I know they're going to go by tax value and tax value on property is not what the property is actually worth," said property owner Renee Lindsley.

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Value and compensation are at stake for Lindsley and the dozen or so people who live in a Durham area now ripe for eminent domain

"Just don't want to be put out in the cold," said business owner Marty O'Steen.

O'Steen fears building the long-awaited East End Connector will destroy the graphics business he created 29 years ago and had hoped to pass down to his children. He's got a laundry list of worries.

"Loss of business, having to buy another piece of property, move find a location that will appeal to us," said O'Steen.

The Department of Transportation's $180 million layout runs nearly four miles. It would connect the Durham Freeway to U.S. Highway 70. It would give drivers on Interstate 40 a fast route to I-85 without driving through the Bull City.

The blue print is pretty much signed, sealed and ready for delivery, but Stan Abrams said it's not yet a done deal.

"Now, DOT is at a point of actually contacting individual property owners and meeting with them and beginning the process of negotiating," said Abrams.

Abram's law firm hosted the meeting to let owners know they don't have to take the DOT's initial offer and that they can actually have a jury trial.

They are options most at the meeting would rather not have to consider.

"It's a major inconvenience," said Lindsley.

The DOT will hold an informational meeting next Tuesday for all property owners who are involved.

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