by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The N.C. Supreme Court unanimously agrees that the N.C. Department of Transportation must pay a Fayetteville couple for taking their property. That taking took place in 1992 when DOT included the property in a corridor map tied to the controversial state Map Act.
But the high court ruling does not resolve how much DOT will ultimately be forced to pay Ted and Sarah Chappell.
Supreme Court justices affirm most of a 2018 Superior Court ruling favoring the Chappells. At that time, the trial court ruled that lost property value of more than $143,000 should grow to $831,000 with compound annual interest. Including attorney’s fees, the total price tag would be $1.75 million.
While Supreme Court justices rejected most of DOT’s arguments on appeal, the unanimous court agreed that the trial judge erred in calculating interest. The case heads back to Superior Court to recalculate DOT’s total bill.
Writing for the court, Justice Anita Earls concludes:
Kirby v. N.C. Dep’t of Transp.established that by recording corridor maps, the NCDOT took significant and fundamental property rights from the property owners in the affected corridors. The evidence in this case showed that for the Chappells, the fair market value of their property plummeted after the 1992 map was recorded because no one was interested in buying a house in Cumberland County that might eventually be condemned to make way for the Fayetteville Outer Loop. The trial court correctly applied the statutorily defined measure of damages for a partial taking and made evidentiary rulings consistent with what is relevant to determining fair market value. … On remand, all parties can provide supplemental evidence to the trial court concerning the appropriate compounded interest rate to apply under the “prudent investor” standard, properly understood.