Attorney Eric Remington has secured a $3.1 million settlement for a local developer at the center of an eminent domain claim against the North Carolina Department of Transportation ("DOT"). North Carolina Lawyers Weekly recently highlighted the case.
Back in the 1990s, Cherry Branch Limited Partnership acquired a 44-acre tract of land in Havelock as part of a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service ("USFS"). The publication noted that "[t]he USFS had previously granted the DOT a permit, and then later an easement, to develop N.C. Hwy 70 through the property." The permit expressly reserved to the USFS the right to access N.C. Hwy 70 from the remaining portions of the tract, and the easement acknowledged the USFS's right to access and use the portion of tract being used for N.C. Hwy 70.
Using the power of eminent domain, the DOT filed a lawsuit to condemn portions of the 44-acre tract on the east and west side of N.C. Hwy 70. The lawsuit was filed to facilitate the construction of a flyover bridge at the Slocomb Boulevard entrance to USMC Air Station Cherry Point. Although Cherry Branch owned the portion of the tract being used for N.C. Hwy 70, the DOT failed to include that portion of the property in the description of the areas being taken. The DOT claimed that it already owned the area being used for N.C. Hwy 70 and, therefore, there was no taking of that area. It also claimed that N.C. Hwy 70 was a controlled access roadway prior to the taking and, therefore, Cherry Branch had no right to access the highway directly from the remaining property on either side of the highway. Cherry Branch filed a counterclaim for inverse condemnation for the taking of the portion of the property the DOT was using for N.C. Hwy 70.
Eric was quoted in the article as saying:
"The exchange deed said that the U.S. Forest Service was transferring all rights, interests, and title in the property. We believe that meant that any rights the U.S. Forest Service had through the permit and easement were transferred or assigned to Cherry Branch, including but not limited to the direct access rights expressly reserved in the permit."
According to North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, the parties settled in January 2020 after mediation. Under the agreement, the DOT paid $3.1 million in exchange for Cherry Branch conveying all of its rights and interests in 18.56 acres of the tract, which included the portion of the tract the DOT was previously using for N.C. Hwy 70.
You can read the full article here, behind the paywall.