A city is trying to use eminent domain to take a farmer’s water supply and give it to a clutch factory.
The city of Laurinburg, North Carolina, wants to pay farmer Brian Maynor and his partner $12,000 for three parcels of land that he says could produce crops worth $200,000 a year.
“The resource is the water, and that’s the resource that I need and the resource that they need,” Maynor said. “That’s where the value comes in.”
The city has filed a declaration of taking in an attempt to seize three acres of Maynor’s Shoeheel Farms, the Laurinburg Exchange newspaper reported. The city wants to drill wells on the land in order to supply water to FCC America LLC, a factory that manufactures motorcycle and ATV clutches and automatic transmissions at a local industrial park.
Irrigation Water At Issue
Maynor told the Exchange that he could build an irrigation system on the land that could produce crops with an estimated value of $200,000 a year.
“My feelings were, if they offer something reasonable then I’ll scrap my plans to irrigate,” he said, “and if they didn’t offer a reasonable price I would go ahead with my plans to irrigate.”
The city launched the eminent domain effort only after it and Maynor cooperated and drilled a well to see how much water was available. When the well started producing 600 gallons of water a minute, the city launched the eminent domain proceeding.
“I told him it wasn’t acceptable, laid out my case and he immediately said ‘We don’t have time for this, we’re going to take you to court,’” Maynor said of an offer made by Laurinburg city manager Charles Nichols. Court documents indicate Maynor sent Nichols an email offering the city the land for $300,000 on Nov. 14.
“… The (city) has now gotten what it wants, knowledge of the suitability of (Shoeheel Farm’s) water for FCC, and now wishes to use that information for the purposes of condemnation as opposed to acquiring it by means of a mutually agreed upon price,” Maynor’s attorney Garris Neil Yarborough wrote in a court document. “It is also interesting to note that although the (city) wants access to all the water under (Shoeheel Farms) they only want to acquire three small well sites to suck it all out and pay for only the land upon which these three small well sites are located.”
Maynor has sued the city of Laurinburg in an attempt to stop the eminent domain. His attorney had asked the Scotland County Superior Court for an injunction to stop the city. The injunction was denied and the city is going ahead with the taking.
North Carolina Farmer in Western-Type Dilemma
Maynor is facing a dilemma that many farmers and ranchers in the West are very familiar with. A city government is trying to take his water.
“They’re trying to suck up all the water out from under me,” Maynor said.
In some states such as Colorado, large areas of farmland have been dried up in order to supply cities.
The city attorney said the government was within its legal rights.
“Even if the court were to find that the expansion of the city’s water and distribution systems were being undertaken for the sole purpose of benefiting a single customer, which it is not, this is still a proper basis for public utilities to condemn private property under North Carolina law,” City Attorney Bill Floyd wrote. FCC America LLC is the only tenant at the city’s US 401 Industrial Park.