Durham is a bustling city, and like any sizable community, it has poorer neighborhoods in which the people don’t have ready access to convenient services. This is the case along a portion of Alston Avenue, otherwise known as NC 55, in Durham. The NCDOT has spent the last several years working on plans to widen Alston Avenue, thereby increasing the ease of traffic flow and the safety of the citizenry.
However, these plans have met with opposition by the people living along the portion of Alston Avenue between NC 147 and NC Highway 98. The neighborhoods along that section of Alston are mainly populated by minorities. Initial plans for the street widening called for the removal of an important business, the Los Primos Supermarket. The Los Primos was the only local grocery store. Having it removed meant enormous disruption to the lives of the families in the area. The NCDOT heeded the public outcry and went back to the drawing board.
New, improved designs for widening Alston Avenue are now all but complete. The new NC 55 will be a four lane divided highway with a median in the center. In addition, the outer lanes will be considerably widened to allow for a bicycle lane and sidewalks. The new plan is friendlier toward neighbors who travel on foot or by bike, but it still requires the taking of significant right of way.
Current plans suggest that the NCDOT will need between 80 and 90 feet of right of way on either side of Alston. Clearly, this is going to affect a significant number of people who live or own a business on the street.
The NCDOT is fully aware that homes and businesses will be displaced as a result of this project. Some portion of the funds available for the street widening have been earmarked as compensation for these property owners. The NCDOT will have its appraisers review each parcel and make an initial financial offer in line with that valuation.
In this scenario, it seems like the NCDOT is holding all the right cards. However, property owners should be aware that they have certain legal rights in any eminent domain or condemnation action. For instance, property owners can have their own appraiser make a valuation on their parcel. In many cases, this valuation varies significantly from that offered by the government and most frequently in favor of the landowner.
Any person living or working in Durham who might be affected by the widening of Alston Avenue has the right to legal representation. The North Carolina eminent domain attorneys at Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog have represented dozens of clients in similar situations. Frequently, they are able to reach a settlement for a much larger amount than the government was initially offering. It’s a safe bet that the NCDOT has legal advisers working on its side, and you are entitled to the same protection. Cranfill, Sumner & Hartzog can provide you with the eminent domain legal advice you need.