Public seminar on U.S. 1 project, eminent domain

By Amanda Moss

January 28, 2014

Amanda Moss

ROCKINGHAM —Tommy Deese has a personal stake in the next phase of the U.S. Route 1 widening project. It might take part of his front yard. Or his house.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation widening project will affect 62 properties along U.S. Route 1 between the area north of Fox Road, or State Route 1606, to Marston Road, also known as State Route 1001. The $15.25 million project includes approximately $2.25 million for land acquisition through eminent domain. N.C. DOT is expected to begin negotiating with property owners as soon as May.

Deese is the owner of a farm along U.S. Route 1 that takes up 100 acres. Much of his family, including his sister and two sons, also own property in the area. Deese’s farm has hay trucks, trailers and chicken house trucks that are going in and out of the area and a divided highway would cause unnecessary difficulty for the trucks to travel along the main thoroughfare.

Deese has been in contact with John Olinger, division construction engineer with N.C. DOT, and others to discuss his concern.

“They originally were going to put a truck turnaround area in my yard,” Deese said. “I wasn’t too happy about that because it would have taken most of my yard and it may have taken my house.”

Deese believes that the plans for this have changed and the turnaround has been moved elsewhere, but he is still unsure as to the final plans for the project. He hasn’t been contacted with regards to a price the N.C. DOT will be paying him for any portion of his property that they’re taking.

That is where Stan Abrams and Jason Campbell come in. The attorneys from Durham aim to help property owners navigate the process of purchasing the property and the law surrounding eminent domain, or the power of a government entity to take privately owned property against the will of the owner subject to just compensation. They are hosting a free public seminar to inform property owners about their rights regarding the widening of U.S. 1.

The seminar will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the Comfort Suites in Rockingham.

“This is just one part of a much bigger project,” Abrams said. “The idea is to have a bypass around Rockingham.”

The overall project is expected to cost $242 million and widen U.S. 1 from the near Marston Road south to the South Carolina line.

“The DOT has started the process of contacting the property owners,” Abrams said. “The DOT will make contact through a letter and then follow up by an in-person visit. Then an appraiser will be sent out to value the property and give an opinion of the dollar figure the DOT should pay for this property and then DOT will make an offer in writing.”

Abrams said it’s important to be fully informed and engaged in the process.

“The important thing to remember is it’s going to happen,” Abrams said. “The bottom line is to make sure you recover the maximum amount you can recover for the property.”

An example of the information that Abrams and Campbell will be providing to the public is how to deal with the appraisers that will come to take a look at the piece of property the N.C. DOT will be looking to buy.

“Property owners need to remember that they are talking to someone (the appraiser) that is actively trying to buy their property,” Campbell said. “The owners can’t lie, but they can put a positive spin on the quality of the property. All the advice that we provide is free, and we are willing to step in and help out. You have to remember that an appraisal is one person’s opinion and they can vary widely.”

Those interested in speaking with or setting up a time to meet with the attorneys at North Carolina Eminent Domain Law firm can visit or call 919-287-8091.