Monday, August 15, 2022

NCDOT settles litigation with Wilmington developers for $24M

NCDOT’s acquisition of land for the Hampstead Bypass has led to multiple litigation settlements, the most recent being with Sidbury Land & Timber LLC for $24 million. (Courtesy NCDOT)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Sidbury Land & Timber LLC came to a settlement agreement with the North Carolina Department of Transportation this week for land that was seized for the Hampstead Bypass per the state’s Map Act, now repealed. More than 500 acres of the property is inaccessible for future development, but the company eked out a win of $24 million in the litigation.

This week’s settlement allows NCDOT to retain 34 acres off Sidbury Road to build the first section of the Hampstead Bypass. It also results in the loss of access to approximately 529 acres of Sidbury property.

READ MORE: Hampstead Bypass construction to start in February, NCDOT awards contract

NCDOT spokesperson Lauren Haviland said the litigation did not have any impact on the work or completion of the bypass but allowed NCDOT to acquire the property needed.

“Both parties came to an amicable agreement and can now move forward,” she said.

Sidbury Land & Timber, located along Sidbury Road, filed litigation in 2018 in the New Hanover County Superior Court. It stated the 2011 map of the project prohibited its development and interfered with its property rights. The map recording process, described in the state’s 1987 Map Act, was used as a planning tool for NCDOT to designate land it intends to acquire for future roadway projects. However, the Map Act was overturned in 2016 and officially repealed by the N.C. General Assembly in 2019.

Courts ruled it was unconstitutional for the state department to reserve land without buying it from property owners. 

According to previous Port City Daily reporting, by July 2019, NCDOT had already paid $290 million in settlements of roughly 360 cases, with another 260 cases pending at that time. Landowners were seeking compensation for their properties.

A recent NCDOT’s weekly cash report noted it had spent $51 million in Map Act claims and settlements in fiscal year 2021-2022, ending June 30. Sidbury Land’s is one of the highest settlement amounts paid by NCDOT.

Sidbury Land & Timber LLC is managed by Bruce Cameron IV and Scott Sullivan of Cameron Management, which has handled developments in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties over the years. The company planned to manage future developments on the land compromised by NCDOT.

Similar litigation was settled in April 2021 between developer Jamestown LP and NCDOT over land to be used for the bypass. For almost a decade, the Pender County developer fought to retain 40 of its 684 acres in Hampstead that would have been seized due to the Map Act. According to Port City Daily reporting, the case ended in a “win-win,” when NCDOT agreed to purchase the property in its entirety for $17.5 million.

Last year, NCDOT said it planned to use the purchased Hampstead property as a sand mine for construction of the bypass, as well as a staging area for an asphalt plant, trucks, and other elements needed for its completion.

The Hampstead Bypass, with a total price tag of about $429 million, was first approved in 2014 and is a long-awaited roadway for drivers in New Hanover and Pender counties. It’s expected to improve traffic flow with the creation of a four-lane highway totaling 12.6 miles once completed by 2030. The second phase, involving Sidbury Road, is slated to begin in 2026.

The route will start at a proposed interchange with the U.S. 17 Wilmington Bypass and extend northwest to Pender County, past Sidbury Road. From there, the road will turn northeast and continue to an interchange with N.C. 210 behind Topsail High’s campus.

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