Map Act under attack: Lawmakers want to repeal controversial law

By: Phillip Bantz//March 24, 2015//

Map Act under attack: Lawmakers want to repeal controversial law

By: Phillip Bantz//March 24, 2015//

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mappointerA group of Republican state lawmakers are pushing legislation that would repeal the Map Act, a unique and controversial law that saves the state money on road projects but which opponents say devastates communities and causes homeowners heartache.

“I wanted to run this bill two years ago,” said Rep. Rayne Brown, a social worker in Davidson and one of the four primary sponsors of House Bill 183. The proposal passed the House on its first reading and has been referred to the Committee on Transportation.

Brown became interested in the Map Act when the North Carolina Department of Transportation began discussing a new route for N.C. Highway 109 in her district and filed project plans with the local register of deeds.

The DOT uses the map filings to make project plans public and effectively freeze development along protected corridors, which ruins property values and allows the state to come in years later and buy land on the cheap.

The Winston-Salem Northern Beltway is seen as one of the most egregious examples of the DOT’s use of the Map Act. Some property owners in the beltway have been waiting for 20 years for the state to fairly compensate them.

Brown said she and Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a real estate agent in Kernersville, took a drive through the beltway corridor before she introduced the bill to repeal the Map Act. Brown described the area as looking like “Beirut without the rubble.”

“You’ll drive down the street and see foundations without the houses. Weeds up to your knees. Then the next house is maintained. The next is not,” she said, adding that she learned the DOT owned and rented out some of the houses that were in disrepair but did not have to pay taxes on the properties.

“They rent these houses for far below the market price, which has a negative effect on the market,” Brown said. “I just hate to see government making money off the backs of its citizens. I just think that is so wrong.”

Krawiec said she would introduce a companion bill in the Senate to repeal the Map Act, which she called “unjust.”

“Once that loop [road project] is identified these properties are just not of value to any people,” she added. “It’s just almost impossible to make a sale in that area. It’s just totally unfair and unjust to these families.”

Winston-Salem lawyer Matthew Bryant of Hendrick Bryant Nerhood & Otis is leading the charge in court against the DOT and the Map Act. He and a group of property owners in the Northern Beltway scored a major victory against the DOT in February, when the state Court of Appeals ruled that Map Act filings constitute a taking, which means the state must pay property owners for their damages.

“We are grateful that legislators recognize this was a bad law, used in a very bad way for a very long time on good people and it hurt them in real ways and continues to hurt them,” Bryant said.

He estimates that between 1,300 and 2,000 property owners across the state have Map Act-related claims against the DOT. Those who cannot reach settlements with the state will have to go through damages trials to determine the fair value their properties.

Brown, meanwhile, said she was too involved with other legislation two years ago to introduce a bill attacking the Map Act. She added that she had planned to file the bill this session regardless of what the Court of Appeals decided, but now she feels that the timing is right.

“It was just like it was meant to be,” she said.



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