Property law: everything you need to know about the map act--for now.

Author:Davis, Joan B.
Position::LAW JOURNAL 2017

Was your property or business listed on an official North Carolina Department of Transportation Protected Corridor Map? If so, you probably have many questions. What does it mean to be subject to a Protected Corridor Map? What is going to happen to your property? And most importantly, do you need to do anything?

This article will give you the vital information that you need to know about the Map Act. The answers may surprise you, but here is the bottom line: If your property has been designated on a Protected Corridor Map, then you will need to be proactive in order to protect the value of your property. In fact, the clock may already be ticking on your legal rights.

North Carolina adopted the Map Act in 1987 as a planning tool for NCDOT to designate property that it intended to acquire for future roadway projects. The idea was to limit development in those designated areas while environmental and design studies were completed. The states goal was to significantly reduce the acquisition costs for the state when it came time to purchase the designated properties for road construction. During that time, the designated property owners could not develop their land, add buildings or subdivide their property without pursuing a costly and time-consuming process to obtain a variance from the state. As a result, these restrictions severely reduced the value of many of the properties caught in the snare of a Protected Corridor Map.

Several of the Protected Corridor Maps remained of record for many years while their related highway projects languished in the development process, and property owners became frustrated at the loss of their valuable property rights. Some property owners filed inverse condemnation lawsuits against NCDOT, arguing that the Protected Corridor Map designation was a taking of their property. An inverse condemnation case is one where a property owner asserts that the government has taken property or property rights without following the proper legal procedure and without paying just compensation as required by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution--"nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Last year, in a historic decision, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the property owners in Kirby v. NCDOT, 368 N.C. 847 (2016). The court held that designating a property on a Protected Corridor Map was a "taking" by NCDOT that required the State to pay the property owners for the...

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