Some Wake County homeowners near proposed highway remain in limbo

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Elderly Wake County property owners want a judge to force the State Department of Transportation to either buy their land or release it so they can sell it.

The land has been identified as potentially in the path of the southern leg of I-540 that the DOT has been building segments of across Wake County for decades.

However, more than 18 years after the state put restrictions on the properties, the DOT has not purchased some of that land including more than 20 acres near Apex owned by James Dean and his wife.

"It's a very personal thing to me because I'm 79 years old," Dean told ABC11.

Dean was joined in the courtroom by another Apex-area couple who is also part of the lawsuit because their home is in the same limbo.

Martha and Mose Wiseman say DOT's restrictions on their home and land make it nearly impossible to build or even make improvements.

"We don't want our children to have to deal with this," said Martha Wiseman. "They shouldn't have to but, you know, we're like held hostage because our hands are tied. We can't do anything."

The landowners said, although they are free to sell their property, no one wants to buy it because of the road project and state restrictions. They also said their property values have plummeted.

One of their attorneys told the judge that America put a man on the moon in nine years but the DOT can't settle on the path of a road in more than twice that time.

"This state cannot even begin to tell us when this road is going to be built 18 years later," said attorney Matthew Bryant.

An attorney for the state told the judge that while DOT has to protect land for highways, they can't spend millions of taxpayers' dollars to immediately buy up land that might be used for the projects.

The issue is a complicated one legally and the judge indicated it may be a while before he hands down a decision.

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