NORTH CAROLINA – Hundreds of people who own property in parts of the state that the N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) has marked for highways are waiting for ruling from the state courts.
Folks in Guilford and Forsyth Counties say the DOT's Northern Beltway Project is forcing them out of their homes.
Attorney Matthew Bryant represents more than 400 people statewide sued the DOT for payment for their property -- and won!
“Owners that sue the state are going to get paid by the state for this taking with interest, back taxes, and attorney’s fees,” said Bryant. “The state owes these people a lot of money and it knows it.”
But the DOT hasn’t paid because they are appealing the courts’ decision.
While the issue is stuck in the courts, property owners’ land is stuck in limbo, and has been, in some cases, for decades.
This whole thing started back in the mid 1990's, when the DOT decided they wanted to build a group of new highways across the state.
The state used the "map act" law -- which restricted all property owners who lived in the path of the highway from building on their property.
So now, hundreds of property owners, like Shawn Smith, have their land stuck in limbo and are still waiting for payment.
"This is my life! I grew up here,” said Smith. “This is my father's life."
Smith's family has owned a seven acre plot of land in Forsyth County for over 75 years.
"We run it, we played it, and we’ve farmed it. It's our heart,” said Smith. “I have a lot of good memories from here as a child growing up."
The Smiths' had plans to build their dream house on that land but the state has other plans.
“Since the state has come along, we can't do nothing,” said Smith.
Their property and hundreds of others have been virtually frozen by the government because the DOT wants to build a highway there.
The Northern Beltway Project has been in the works for approximately 20 years and will impact homeowners across seven North Carolina counties including Guilford and Forsyth.
Bryant says he hopes the lawsuits filed against the state will result in the DOT being required to buy all the land that has been stuck in limbo for years.
“Everyone knows they're going to have to pay for this,” said Bryant. “They just want to fight and fight and fight and not play fairly and you can't depend on the good graces of our government.”
After a recent court decision ruling the "Map Act" law unconstitutional, homeowners like Smith, thought they were finally going to be paid for their but now that isn't happening after the D.O.T. filed an appeal to stall the payoff.
“The state owes these people a lot of money and it knows it,” said Bryant.
“You feel helpless and just flat out hopeless,” said Smith.
Bryant says the NCDOT has lost every court ruling on this issue but have appealed the courts' decision.
At the time of this report, there is no timetable on when that appeal will be heard.
We reached out to the NCDOT for a statement and their agency said it “:doesn't comment on lawsuits that are still active.”
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