Landowners in Path of N.C.’s Wake Expressway Sue

Fri December 23, 2011 - Southeast Edition
Michael Biesecker - ASSOCIATED PRESS

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Property owners whose land and homes lie in the path of the long-planned Southern Wake Expressway have filed a class-action lawsuit against the state, alleging their property rights are being violated.

The N.C. Turnpike Authority is expected to begin construction in 2014 on the final 30-mi. section of the I-540 Outer Loop through southern and eastern Wake County.

The project languished for nearly two decades as the N.C. Department of Transportation was unable to secure funding. Current plans are to build the six-lane expressway from Apex to Knightdale as a toll road.

The lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court in September. But lawyers for the homeowners issued a statement Nov. 21 saying the state is taking private property without paying just compensation, as required by the U.S. Constitution.

The property owners contend in their lawsuit that they have essentially been trapped in their homes, unable to sell or fully utilize their property, since DOT took legal action in 1996 to prevent development in the corridor. The lawsuit seeks to force DOT to buy their property and reimburse them for property taxes and other expenses borne in the meantime.

“Private property rights are one of the cornerstones of our free society,” said Kieran J. Shanahan, a Raleigh lawyer representing the property owners. “The NCDOT has effectively held these property owners — who are taxpayers, I might add — hostage for the past 15 years. These families have been deprived of their Constitutional right to use, enjoy and receive the value of their private property.”

The lawsuit names five plaintiffs with Apex addresses, but said up to 125 property owners could eventually be included in the class action.

DOT spokeswoman Greer Beaty said the agency is reviewing the lawsuit, but could not immediately comment.