Blog Written by Attorney Jennifer D. Scott:
Eminent Domain or Condemnation is when an agency of government (or in some limited case, a private entity) takes private property for a public purpose. All levels of government in the United States have the right of eminent domain as is part of their sovereignty and public policy sometimes requires the taking of private property for the higher public good. Paramount to this right, however, is the obligation, as provided for in the United States Constitution and the Constitution for the State of North Carolina, that the government pay “just compensation” to the owner affected.
In North Carolina, Chapter 136 of the General Statues governs condemnation cases instituted by the Department of Transportation for highway purposes.Such purposes include the extension of Military Cutoff in Wilmington, NC.
The process begins with a landowner’s receipt of a letter of inquiry from the right of way agent. If there is a partial taking (less than all of your property is needed for the project) a survey will be needed and the condemnor will need permission to access your property for that purpose or seek a court order to gain access for the survey. Next, the condemnor obtains a fair market value appraisal from a state certified real estate appraiser. The condemnor then uses the appraisal as a basis to meet personally with you as the landowner to make an offer to purchase your land of a portion thereof. Getting counsel at an early stage to evaluate your options and the offer can be critical. Shipman & Wright has a team in place to assist and guide you through this process.
In the event you cannot reach agreement with the condemning authority, they will file a civil action in Superior Court. The condemnor acquires title to the subject property upon 1) filing the civil action, 2) filing a Notice of Taking in the office of the Register of Deeds, and 3) the payment of their estimate of just compensation into the office of the Clerk of Superior Court. You will be served a copy of the suit and summons setting forth the deadline to respond if you choose to challenge their estimate of value. Deadlines are important and are different for different type takings. It is important to contact counsel as soon as you receive the notice if not before. Shipman & Wright is prepared to evaluate your case, withdraw the deposit made by the condemnor from the Clerk without prejudice to your rights, and file a response for you.
In these cases, the jury must decide the amount of just compensation to which you are entitled. The answer to this question is dependent on competing appraisals and argument in support of each. It is important to work with articulate counsel and a knowledgeable, credible appraiser. Shipman & Wright is prepared to assist in employing the right appraiser for your case and will make the best possible argument in court for you!
If you are affected by the Military Cutoff Extension Project in Wilmington, please contact our office today for initial advice on what to expect and to learn how we can help you.