PennDOT: Eminent domain notices for I-83 widening project to go out in April

Logan Hullinger
York Dispatch

York County residents whose properties will be seized under eminent domain for the Interstate 83 widening project are expected to be notified next month, according to the state Department of Transportation.

But as the $330 million project advances, Anthony Corby, an eminent domain attorney at the Hershey-based Faherty Law Firm, says he expects an influx of clients as the residents are notified and eventually receive offers for their properties.

Corby earlier this month won what he said is a rare eminent domain case related to a separate PennDOT project in Dauphin County.

"The biggest problem clients have is that PennDOT's not paying them enough, at fair market value, and the pain involved of relocating a commercial business and private residence," Corby said.

According to a "Displacements" map on the I-83 widening project website, an entire neighborhood in North York, just south of the southbound entrance ramp on the west side of the highway, and several businesses on the east side would be effected, Wednesday, October 2, 2019
John A. Pavoncello photo

More:Feds OK I-83 widening project expected to displace nearly 100 homes and businesses in Springetts

More:I-83 widening means eminent domain for Springettsbury neighborhood

The Federal Highway Administration last April signed off on the widening project that covers roughly 5 miles of the I-83 corridor from Exit 19 (Market Street) to Exit 22 (North George Street). The project is expected to be completed in 2026.

About 200 properties will be subject to either partial acquisition or complete acquisition, in which case the owners would have their entire property bought and receive assistance with relocating.

In total, 91 properties would be subject to complete acquisition. Of those, 60 are residential properties, 27 are commercial properties and four are municipal or tax-exempt properties.

The properties are located in North York and in Springettsbury, Spring Garden and Manchester townships.

I-83 widening project

It will likely be much further down the road before offers go out, said Dustin Palmer, a right of way administrator with PennDOT.

"We do have all of our right-of-way plans at this point in time, but it's going to be a while because appraisers need to be assigned," he said. "That's going to take a while. There has to be inspections, interviews and all kinds of things."

It isn't clear when exactly the initial eminent domain notifications will go out, but it's expected to happen in April, he said.

PennDOT has already closed on some properties for what it calls early-action projects, which are preliminary projects that need to be completed before the bulk of the project begins.

There are three early-action items in the project: the widening of North Hills Road, improvements to Exit 22 and a bridge replacement over Mill Creek.

The North Hills Road and Exit 22 projects are underway and expected to be completed by 2022, and the bridge replacement project is set to go out for bid on April 22, said project manager Nexa Castro.

It is unclear how many properties were taken for the early projects alone.

Faherty Law Firm, though, has one client who is expected to lose their commercial property, although they did not want to be included in this report, Corby said.

But the attorney explained that many clients come to the law firm when actual monetary offers are made. The problem, he said, is that PennDOT often fails to make an offer that meets the properties' fair market value.

As the project advances, Corby said, how much money property owners are offered won't be the only issue.

According to a "Displacements" map on the I-83 widening project website, an entire neighborhood in North York, just south of the southbound entrance ramp on the west side of the highway, and several businesses on the east side would be effected, Wednesday, October 2, 2019
John A. Pavoncello photo

“Oftentimes, the issue is finding an adequate, comparable place to move,” Corby said. “Commercial properties tend to be the hardest moves because there are less commercial properties (available).”

In much more rare cases, Corby said, he has sued PennDOT on behalf of clients because of "de facto taking."

Earlier this month, Common Pleas Judge Andrew H. Dowling ruled in favor of Corby's client because he was unable to lease or sell two commercial properties in Harrisburg after PennDOT announced they would be taken.

The announcement came long before the two properties were taken, which "essentially moves forward in time the taking date," Corby said.

The judge ruled that by announcing the property was subject to eminent domain, the agency ostensibly had taken the property because it had become impossible for the owner to sell or lease them.

As a result, PennDOT had to purchase the properties ahead of time at a price of nearly $1.2 million, Corby said.

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