Local/State

New highway to wipe out Durham homes

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

For years, drivers headed north on Hwy 147 have had no quick way to get to Interstate 85 North without cutting through downtown Durham or going miles out of the way up 147 and US 15-501.

That will change once the new East End Connector is finished. It'll give drivers a faster path from 147 over to US 70 and then the interstate.

Construction is planned to start in 2014.

Click here for more information (.pdf)

But an entire Durham neighborhood stands in the path of the new road. That means property owners are getting notices from the Department of Transportation telling them they'll have to give up some of their land - or even sell and move.

Business owner Laura Bristol knows the road is coming and there's nothing she can do about it.

"We will literally open my back door and be in the right of way for the state highway," she said. "We figured this business, we were going to pass down to my daughter, down to her daughter through the years, and we were going to pass down the property as well, but now we're wondering if there's even going to be any property left by the time my granddaughter's old enough."

More than 150 properties will be affected and the DOT says 36 property owners total will have to move.

"Out of those 36, 21 are residential and 15 are businesses," explained Wally Bowman with the NCDOT.

Many said they're concerned the state won't pay them a fair price for their land.

"What people don't realize is an offer is an offer. It's not something you don't have to take. You certainly have a right to reject the offer and fight for more," explained NC eminent domain expert Stan Abrams.

But the state has the legal right to take the land and build the road. With more than $170 million in funding on the line, the highway is a priority for the DOT.

"If they don't agree on the appraisal price - if we can't settle on a price - then the DOT can condemn, file a condemnation and put the money in an escrow account," Bowman explained.

There will be an Eminent Domain Workshop hosted by the NC Eminent Domain Law Firm on Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. in the Downtown Durham Marriott.

The DOT is also hosting a Kickoff Meeting for Property Owners Tuesday Sept. 25 at Orange Grove Church from 4 to 7p.m.

More information for homeowners is also available here.

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