I-83 widening means eminent domain for Springettsbury neighborhood

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch
A proposed widening project for Interstate 83 may end up consuming part of Fayfield Park in Springettsbury Township. Plans include widening a five mile stretch from four lanes to eight. Tuesday, May 7, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

PennDOT's plan to widen Interstate 83 is expected to force some residents, businesses and places of worship out of their current locations.

The state Department of Transportation announced its plan to widen a 5-mile stretch of I-83 in Northern York County from four to six lanes last year. Last week, project manager Ben Singer confirmed that would entail land acquisition and a "high potential" for affected homes and businesses.

"We're certainly concerned about the adverse impacts (eminent domain) will have on our members of our community," Springettsbury Township Manager Ben Marchant said. "Any time there is acquisition of that nature it's troubling, but this is a long-standing plan that PennDOT has had."

More:PennDOT to begin repair and resurface project on stretch of I-83

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Based on the project's website, numerous parcels in Springettsbury Township would be subject to eminent domain because of construction in the Market Street area, which is slated for 2024.

While PennDOT has said that the project meant to modernize the interstate to safely accommodate traffic will require the use of eminent domain, the specific parcels  that will be seized have yet to be identified.

But after studying available state maps and talking to agency officials, residents in the area have gotten a sense of which properties are most at risk. 

And not everyone's on board.

"We're losing so much property, and the house has a lot of sentimental value to me," said Jerry Finke, who's lived in his Springettsbury Township home since 1996. "It was my father's before he passed in 2014, and I've always lived here as a kid."

Properties along South Manheim Street near I-83, Thursday, May 9, 2019, including York Church of Christ, may be subject to eminent domain confiscation with a interstate widening project planned. Bill Kalina photo

The Finke family expects to lose roughly half of their yard where a shed and swimming pool now sit. 

Other property owners near the project site could lose entire parcels.

That includes York Church of Christ, where worshipers pray in a 50-year-old building just along the interstate. When called Thursday, a man confirmed the church was aware of its probable fate and has been expecting it. He declined to give his name

The York Arts Association may be in the same boat, as it's losing such a large portion of its property that its president is weighing a move.

"It's sad because it's a wonderful spot for us," Kristan Winand said. "I think it's a sad reality for a lot of our longtime members. It's very personal for them."

Properties along South Manheim Street near I-83, Thursday, May 9, 2019, including York Art Association, may be subject to eminent domain confiscation with a interstate widening project planned. Bill Kalina photo

The association's property was donated in the 1960s. 

Since opening in that spot, the association has supported local arts, provided public art education and acted as a public gallery for residents to display their works.

Yet several residents nearby voiced approval for the interstate project, as they described living with the car crashes and noise produced by the highway.

Kelly Wagner has lived in her home with her husband since 2013. She's embracing the prospect that eminent domain could move her from the constant racket.

Based on the day-to-day noise of the interstate and the ability to get some money from the government to relocate, she's "kind of excited" for work to get underway.

The only issue, she said, is that she's disabled and she and her husband need to know as soon as possible when PennDOT would need to take their property, as moving requires more planning for them than for the average person. 

"I would love to be told more," Wagner said. "Not having a specific timeline is disturbing." 

A portion of the anticipated disturbance in Springettsbury Township from the I-83 widening project.

PennDOT held an open house last year to talk about the project. It also has convened community events this year, but it's unsure whether more will be scheduled, Singer said.

The agency hopes to submit an environmental assessment document by June, which typically takes about six months for approval and will give PennDOT a better picture of how much eminent domain will be required.

State officials will begin drafting the project's final plan next year, Singer said.

The Market Street area isn't the only location that will see a widened interstate. Work on the I-83 corridor is expected to begin in 2021. Construction around Exit 21 and Exit 22 is expected to begin in 2023.

— Logan Hullinger can be reached at lhullinger@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @LoganHullYD.