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NCDOT Reaches $24M Settlement Over Cameron Land

By Cece Nunn, posted Jun 23, 2022
An NCDOT map shows the general location of the Hampstead Bypass, which is expected to be complete by 2030. (Courtesy of NCDOT)
The N.C. Department of Transportation reached a $24 million settlement with Wilmington landowners related to the U.S. 17 Hampstead Bypass project, state officials said this week.

The payout helps compensate Sidbury Land & Timber LLC because the bypass project cuts off access to more than 500 acres of the company’s property on Sidbury Road in New Hanover County, according to the landowners. Sidbury Land & Timber is managed by Bruce Cameron IV and Scott Sullivan of Wilmington-based Cameron Management.

Additionally, the agreement, dated June 9, conveys about 34 acres off Sidbury Road to the NCDOT, along with easements, to build the portion of the Hampstead Bypass project extending from N.C. 140 (formerly known as the Wilmington Bypass) to N.C. 210.

In 2018, Sidbury Land & Timber filed a lawsuit against the NCDOT over the Sidbury Road land, stating that the 2011 map for the bypass project “froze” the property and “prohibited its development, improvement and subdivision.”

The local company wasn’t the only one to file a lawsuit as a result of the state’s Map Act, although its settlement could be one of the highest amounts. In recent years, the NCDOT has settled hundreds of Map Act claims. The law came about in 1987 to lower the cost of land needed by the department for infrastructure. In 2016, then Gov. Pat McCrory rescinded all DOT corridor maps designated by the Map Act, and three years later, lawmakers repealed it. 

Doing away with the Map Act raised right-of-way acquisition costs “for certain urban loop projects in our state, including the Hampstead Bypass,” an NCDOT spokesman said in a previous Greater Wilmington Business Journal article.

According to the June 9 settlement agreement, Sidbury Land & Timber and the department “have now agreed to fully compromise and settle any and all claims that have arisen, or may hereafter arise, from the foregoing transactions and occurrences including but not limited to any and all claims by the Landowner for just compensation under the Map Act…”

Emmett Haywood, the Raleigh-based property rights attorney who represented Sidbury Land & Timber in the dispute, had “provided a demand of $36.3M to the Department” prior to the settlement, NCDOT officials stated in an email Wednesday.

According to a statement from Haywood on Thursday afternoon, “Sidbury Land & Timber LLC has been working with the NCDOT for a number of years regarding the right of way needed for the portion of the Hampstead Bypass that will cross the Sidbury land. 
 
“This complex case involved the Map Act restrictions NCDOT imposed on the property for several years.

“NCDOT has now acquired the right of way, which acquisition has resulted in negative impacts to the Sidbury property outside the 34+ acres in right of way acquired. Those negative impacts caused by the highway include the loss of all access to approximately 529 acres of the Sidbury property. 

Haywood added, “The owners are glad to have reached a settlement and to avoid further litigation.”

On March 11 this year, state and local officials celebrated the start of construction on one portion of the Hampstead Bypass, which will be 13 miles at completion. The estimated cost of both segments of the project, including construction and right-of-way acquisition, jumped from $278 million in 2018 to the current anticipated price tag of $429 million.

Construction on the part involving the Sidbury Road land is expected to begin in 2026, while officials hope the bypass will be complete by 2030.
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