Appeal by defendants William S. Agapion and Sophia S. Agapion and plaintiff Redevelopment Commission of Greensboro from order entered 4 December 1996 by Judge Thomas W. Ross in Guilford County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 8 January 1998.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: McGEE, Judge.
This appeal arises from a condemnation by the Redevelopment Commission of Greensboro of residential rental property located in the Rosewood section in the northeast area of downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. The condemnation included defendants' nine rental houses which are divided into duplexes for a total of eighteen rental units.
In June 1992 staff members from the City of Greensboro's Department of Housing and Community Development were invited to a meeting of Rosewood residents to discuss problems with break-ins into boarded-up homes, trash, and the general decline of the neighborhood. The Redevelopment Commission of Greensboro selected Rosewood as a Community Development Target Area in July 1993. This classification makes an area eligible for federal funding for renovation and acquisition of deteriorated housing units. When an area is so classified, a redevelopment plan must then be prepared by the local redevelopment commission in accordance with the Urban Redevelopment Law, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 160A-500, et seq. (1994). A public hearing must be held prior to the commission's final determination of the plan. N.C.G.S. § 160A- 513(e).
The plan is then submitted to the local planning commission for review. N.C.G.S. § 160A-513(f). The planning commission may either approve, reject, or modify the plan. Within forty-five days the planning commission must "certify to the redevelopment commission its recommendation on the redevelopment plan[.]" Id. The plan is then submitted with any recommendations to the city council which must also hold a public hearing to allow public Discussion of the plan. Notice to the public must be given of the meeting, and the notice must describe the plan "in a manner designed to be understandable by the general public." N.C.G.S. § 160A-513 (g) & (h).
At the hearing the governing body shall afford an opportunity to all persons or agencies interested to be heard and shall receive, make known, and consider recommendations in writing with reference to the redevelopment plan.
(i) The governing body shall approve, amend, or reject the redevelopment plan as submitted.
(j) Subject to the proviso in subsection (c) of this section, upon approval by the governing body of the redevelopment plan, the commission is authorized to acquire property, to execute contracts for clearance and preparation of the land for resale, and to take other actions necessary to carry out the plan, in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
N.C.G.S. § 160A-513 (h),(i)& (j).
Pursuant to the Urban Redevelopment Law, the Greensboro Planning Board certified on 19 January 1994 that Rosewood was an area in danger of becoming a blighted area in the reasonably foreseeable future. A redevelopment plan for the area was prepared by plaintiff. On 6 June 1994 the Greensboro City Council approved the redevelopment plan, which included thirty-nine tracts of land to be acquired by plaintiff, nine of which are owned by defendants. Plaintiff filed a complaint for condemnation against defendants on 17 October 1995 asserting that the properties sought to be condemned lie "within the redevelopment area and [are] an integral part of the overall plan of redevelopment of the 'Rosewood Redevelopment Area'" and that "it is necessary to acquire said real estate . . . to accomplish the objective of clearance, rehabilitation and/or redevelopment of the 'Rosewood Neighborhood Area' Redevelopment Plan." Defendants filed an answer denying that it was necessary for plaintiff to acquire defendants' properties as part of the redevelopment plan.
The trial court held a hearing on 7 October 1996 and entered an order on 4 December 1996 concluding as a matter of law that:
1. In order to determine if the taking of the real property is for a public purpose, this Court must determine that the real property is blighted as that term is defined in North Carolina General Statute § 160A-503(2) as [of] the date of the taking, that being October 17, 1995, the date of the filing of the complaint. This determination by the Court is independent of the determination of the plaintiff on this question, the scope of review on this issue being that of a trial de novo.
2. On the date of taking, October 17, 1995, with the exception of 1319/1321 Meadow Street (Lot 10), the real property was blighted by reason of its dilapidation, deterioration and its lack of ventilation being detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare. By reason thereof, the taking of the said real property, with the exception of 1319/1321 Meadow Street (Lot 10), is for a public purpose.
3. The plaintiff has failed to meet its burden of proof that on the date of taking, October 17, 1995, 1319/1321 Meadow Street (Lot 10) was blighted. This determination does not prejudice the right of the plaintiff to seek to acquire this property by condemnation at a later date in a separate action should the property become blighted in the future.
4. With the exception of 1319/1321 Meadow Street (Lot 10), the [Commission] has the authority to condemn the real ...