Paragraph 11 of the 99-year ground lease between the respondent-landlord and the respondent-tenant says that, if all or any portion of the premises is taken by condemnation, “Lessor shall receive the value of the land taken and Lessee shall receive the value of the buildings taken.” Paragraph 11 does not specifically delineate between permanent and temporary takings. Even though there are currently no buildings on the property, since the lease term extends for nearly 50 more years, the temporary construction easement will have no effect on the landlord’s interest in the land and affects only the tenant’s interests.
The parties previously agreed to just compensation in the amount of $8,580 for the permanent easement and $15,902 for the temporary construction easement. We affirm the superior court’s award of $15,902 to the tenant and $8,580 to the landlord.
Unlike permanent easements, which forever deprive the landowner of the use and enjoyment of the property, temporary easements are relatively brief, and the land reverts back to the landowner in the same condition that it was in when the easement began. For that reason, when a property is subject to a temporary easement, it is the interests of the occupier—the lessee—that are impacted, rather than the interest of the non-occupying lessor.
Particularly under facts as we have in this case, where the land is subject to a 99-year lease that is not due to terminate for another 50 years, by the time the property returns to the possession of the lessor, the temporary easement will have ceased, and the lessor’s interest will be wholly unaffected. In contrast, the permanent easement will remain and the lessor’s interest in that property will continue to be abrogated.
We apply our contractual interpretation principles to avoid unjust or absurd results. To interpret paragraph 11 to apply to temporary easements would lead to such a result, wherein the landlord is compensated for a loss it did not sustain, while the tenant remains uncompensated for the temporary deprivation of its interest in the leased property. During the pendency of the temporary easement, the tenant will be unable to exercise its leasehold rights on the subject property such as, for example, constructing new apartment complexes.
We therefore hold the trial court correctly found that paragraph 11 did not apply to the appropriation of funds for temporary construction easements.
Piedmont Natural Gas Co. v. Mallard Creek Associates #1, LLC (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-431-22, 9 pp.) (Darren Jackson, J.) Appealed from Mecklenburg County Superior Court (Donnie Hoover, J.) Jeremy Sugg for respondent Mallard Creek Associates #1, LLC; no brief for respondent Golden Triangle #3, LLC; no brief for petitioner. 2022-NCCOA-697