PennDOT project raises concerns about property loss

Investigations

HANOVER, Pa. (WHTM) – Several local business owners and residents are concerned they could lose everything they’ve worked for.

“People are outraged for good reason,” attorney Art Becker says.

PennDOT’s Eisenhower Drive Extension Project in York and Adams Counties aims at making improvements to traffic flow and safety.

“There is an above-average crash history at this location and we also have congestion,” says Assistant PennDOT District Executive for Design Chris Drda.

PennDOT is currently looking at three options: do nothing, extend Eisenhower Drive (5C option), or make improvements to nearby existing roads, called the Transportation System Management or TSM.

Art Becker’s law office is located on Carlisle Street and he says many people were not aware of the TSM option.

“We can’t understand as far as the TSM alternative, how destroying 53 homes and businesses in Hanover will solve a traffic problem almost 2 miles away in McSherrystown,” said Becker.

A list of possible property displacements has been circulating. According to Representative Kate Klunk’s office, the list was based on PennDOT maps of the proposed TSM option.

Brian Fuentes’ business, Gypsy Skull Tattoo, is also on the list.

“You start affecting us you affect the future of this borough. You affect the taxes. I don’t see how this is going to help anybody. It’s a big deal,” Fuentes says.

Minuteman Press, also on the list, has been run by Scott Kurz and his wife since 2011. He doesn’t think his business could survive a location change even if he got fair market value for the property.

“We have about 10, 10, 12 machines in our facility that require rigging to get out and it would cost us nearly $30,000 to $40,000 to move that, so whatever we could get in compensation we would lose in that. Then we take on a huge debt. It would really strap our business. Not sure we would succeed as a business after the move. Too much finance involved,” Kurz said.

Beverly and John Long moved to Hanover Borough only 3 months ago and were upset to find their address on the list.

“We were both devastated when we found out what’s happening,” John Long said. His wife agrees, “If we have to move, there’s no way we can rent or afford to buy again.”

John Sipling’s home will not be affected by the TSM build, but as a retiree living on a fixed income, he is concerned about his neighbors and Hanover Borough’s tax base.

“If I had to endure more taxes because of these property loses, what’s the use of living in the borough. When you cant afford the taxes and you can’t afford to live here,” Sipling said.

The list of possible property displacements has also raised some questions.

“There’s no consistency in the process,” Becker said. “Some of the homes that are not being taken are closer to the road. For example, 525 Carlisle Street is 24 a half feet from the road. That’s on the list of properties to be taken. 544 Carlisle Street is nine feet from the road and not on the list.”

“That information is just very preliminary. The lines, in terms of the businesses or properties, might be off 5 to 10 feet. These are just lines based on a general concept,” Drda said.

Drda says the Eisenhower Drive Extension Project is one of PennDOT’s more complex projects; PennDOT created a website to help keep the public informed.

“The project has impacts to the businesses, it has impacts to the property owners and it also has impacts to farmlands, historic resources, natural resources. So this is a very in-depth process,” Drda said.

PennDOT has held two public meetings regarding the project. One in 2018 and the most recent in May 2019. Drda says at this time PennDOT has not made a decision on which option will be chosen. Until then, it is unclear which, if any properties, could be impacted.

“Whichever alternative we choose, we will be contacting those individuals once we start the right of way process. We can’t do that yet because we don’t know. We are not allowed to by State and Federal regulations and that is probably not going to be out until 2021,” said Drda.

While Hanover residents are concerned about the TSM plan, the 5C option would extend Eisenhower Drive and take some acreage from several farms.

“We are sympathetic for that but no one there is going to lose their homes or businesses. They would take approximately an acre maybe two of farmland and put 4 to 6 miles of roadway in to extend Eisenhower Drive and that would be the end of the issue. Here people would lose their homes and their businesses,” Becker said.

The extension plan (5C) could cost between $34 million to $37 million. The alternate plan, TSM, could cost between $25 million to $29 million.

Drda says cost is not the only factor PennDOT considers when making a decision though.

“We consider environmental impact. Is it meeting the purpose and need of the project, how is going to impact safety and also public input?” Drda asked.

Rep. Kate Klunk (R-Hanover) also held a public meeting with constituents to further inform them of the options being considered.

“For several months, my office has been working to inform residents of the various proposals the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is considering to improve traffic on and around Eisenhower Drive,” Klunk said. “During the open house, I heard from many residents and business owners who could be potentially impacted by the plan. We have passed these constituent concerns, and others we received, on to PennDOT. We continue to encourage residents to contact PennDOT through its website to ensure their voices are heard on this project.”

The group expressed additional concern that PennDOT would take on all the properties in the TSM plan, however, Drda says PennDOT can only take “what is needed to improve the roadway”.

PennDOT is expected to announce which option it is choosing for the Eisenhower Drive Extension in early 2020.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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