Unless you were directly affected by it, you may not have heard of the “Map Act,” but it’s at the center of the biggest eminent domain law case in the world right now. The Map Act was originally passed in the late 80s to allow cities to put development restrictions on land that they were intending to use for future roadways—basically the government could call “dibs” on land that they wanted to use without having to put any money towards that reservation.
This may have seemed like a good idea at the time, as it would prevent new construction in areas where new roadways were planned. This meant that the city would be able to spend less money purchasing the land, and new developments wouldn’t have to be torn down in order to make way for the new road.
However, the big problem here was that it might take years or even decades for the city to be ready to actually purchase the land. Which meant it was very difficult for landowners to sell or develop their land. Land in protected areas became less valuable and, in some cases, unsalable.
Many people felt that the loss of property value was a bigger problem than the eventual cost to the cities for the price of land, so earlier this year the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that the Map Act was in fact a case of the government taking private property, and the U.S. requires compensation. The state, unhappy with this outcome, appealed the Court of Appeals ruling to the North Carolina Supreme Court. The North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals: the Map Act was in violation of the landowners’ rights.
The North Carolina Supreme Court also ordered that the landowners affected by the law receive the difference in the value of their land before and after the law was passed. It is estimated that the government will have to pay around $200 million in compensation.