Somin Comments on NC Map Act

In North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, Professor Ilya Somin comments on North Carolina's Map Act, suggesting that it is constitutionally suspect. 

"There is not a legitimate government interest to suppress development merely so it would make the property cheaper if they condemn it later," he said. 

The Map Act was passed in 1987 with the stated purpose of controlling the cost of acquiring rights-of-way for NCDOT projects. In essence it allows the state to freeze all development along protected road corridors for indefinite periods of time, keeping the purchase prices low until such point as the state acts to use the land. 

A North Carolina Court of Appeals last week held in Beroth Oil Co. v. N.C. Department of Transportation that hundreds of property owners in the path of the proposed Winston-Salem Northern Beltway the would need to file individual actions, rather than file as a class, in order to be bought out or recover damages. The plaintiffs are challenging the constitutionality of the law.

The good news for DOT: It won court ruling in North Carolina Court of Appeals, North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, May 18, 2012. By Sharon McCloskey.

"But that decision had the smell of pyrrhic victory. The court signaled that the state's Map Act—the law which allows the state to halt development of any property it anticipates needing for an eventual road—might well be found to be unconstitutional. Worse yet for DOT, The Map Act's original authors now say they never anticipated that the state would tie up private property for decades as it ponders whether roads should be built. 

"The decision left property owners—many who've lived for years with the consequences of having DOT tell the world that a road would soon be rolling through their homes—stranded again and facing further delays, this time at the behest of the court system."

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