As Charlotte and Mecklenburg County experience unprecedented growth, some local residents are learning you can be forced to pay for new infrastructure with your own property and towns don’t need your permission to take the land.
A Huntersville car repair shop owner is fighting for his old shop that fell under the town’s eminent domain.
Jim Neitzke has been working on cars for as long as he can remember for one simple reason.
“I guess it’s just the enjoyment of solving, solving problems,” he said.
But in his six decades, the Cars Superior Auto owner said he’s never had a problem like the one he’s working through right now.
Two years after receiving a notice from the Town of Huntersville, he said he’s still fighting for the old shop he had to move from.
“They forced me out with threatening letters, threatening us with trespassing if we didn’t get off the property,” Neitzke said.
He said it’s all part of the town’s upgrades along Main Street, and falls under a rule in North Carolina called eminent domain.
Action 9′s Jason Stoogenke explains that eminent domain means the government can take your land for some sort of public use. They do have to compensate you for it, but who determines that fair market value is where things get tricky.
A town spokesperson told Channel 9′s Anthony Kustura Huntersville uses a third party to negotiate. Huntersville Town Manager Anthony Roberts sent the following statement to Channel 9:
“The Town of Huntersville retains independent appraisers to determine the value of the property for condemnation and did so in this case. The Town had the preliminary appraisal updated to the date of the taking and that increased the appraised value. The Town has offered Mr. Neitzke an amount in excess of the appraised value in negotiations to resolve the case. In cases like this where the parties cannot come to an agreement as to the amount to be paid for the property condemned, Mr. Neitzke has the right to have a jury decide the amount of compensation to be paid by the Town and it appears that is what will happen in the present case.”
Neitzke said his independent appraisal came back much higher than the town’s assessment, which he claims is lower than the tax value.
Meanwhile, his former shop is torn down and replaced with dirt and construction crews to make room for a roundabout to ease traffic congestion.
Neighbor Alex Slawson lives near there and has already lost part of his front yard under the same rule. He said the construction isn’t ideal but he’s excited about all the growth. He’s just hoping the town doesn’t change too much.
“I’m hoping that it’s a mix of growth and keeping the neighborhood as it is,” Slawson said.
Neitzke shares those same concerns.
“I don’t see any end to their growth plans, I really don’t,” Neitzke said.
He said he stayed in Huntersville to serve his loyal customer base, but his new space is just a fraction of what he once owned. He said his business is hurting because of it.
“I can’t employ any more people here because there’s no room to work, so we’re doing the best we can with the size we have,” he said.
He’s worried other businesses and residents may be impacted in the future. When asked if he had any advice for someone in his situation, Neitzke had a quick reply.
“Get a competent attorney,” he said, laughing. “That’s my advice.”
Channel 9′s Stoogenke offers the similar advice. Never take the first offer and get an attorney so they can help you negotiate, he said.
(WATCH BELOW: Residents forced out of south Charlotte homes say pressure continues to move out now)