Construction of the Outer Loop highway connecting Interstate 95 north and south of Fayetteville will be delayed due to recent rulings in lawsuits filed by landowners against against the North Carolina Department of Transportation, said lawyer Neil Yarborough.
Two rulings, one issued by the Cumberland County Superior Court and another by the state Court of Appeals, have rejected the Department of Transportation’s attempts to purchase the residents’ land under eminent domain. The agency has to pay them first for all the years that they were restricted by law in using their properties. Both rulings were coincidentally issued on Nov. 21.
“It means the Fayetteville Outer Loop is dead in the water,” said Yarborough who serves as the legal counsel of about 80 property owners who claim the government has illegally controlled their land without making a purchase or paying them for the lost value caused by the action.
The Department of Transportation, however, has countered Yarborough’s statement. The agency said that construction of the Outer Loop is currently ongoing in western Cumberland County. The 39-mile highway is slated for completion in five years. A 14-mile segment is already open.
“It’s not dead in the water,” said the agency’s spokesman Andrew Barksdale. Its website also says that the state has a contract to be awarded in December 2017 for construction of the next several miles.
Under the Map Act, the Department of Transportation locked properties down along the proposed highway route without purchase or paying the owners. Although the act was repealed in 2016, numerous owners were prevented from developing or subdividing their land while it was in effect. According to Yarborough, some of the owners were also prevented from doing maintenance work including plumbing and roof repairs.