Pa. responds to couple’s claim of bias in eminent domain case

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The $8 million Northern Gateway Project in Harrisburg helped to widen a stretch of North Seventh Street to four lanes in order to ease traffic congestion for development, including the new State Archive Building and the federal courthouse.

Eminent domain was used to purchase land from property owners.  

Fred and Martha Jackson told abc27 that they received less money for their land than neighbors who owned less.  Fred Jackson says the law has not protected them from discrimination.  

“In order for it to be just compensation, the law says it must be fair market value,” Fred Jackson said. “During that period when they took the property, they didn’t give us fair market value.”

Court records show in 2008, a white property owner received nearly $300,000 for 1,800 square feet of property near Seventh and Hamilton streets.  Another white property owner was given almost $270,000.

The Jacksons say they owned nearly three times as much property in the same area and were offered $3,600.

In 2018, the Jacksons say they offered to settle for the matter for $565,000 for 10,000 square feet and the state made a counteroffer of $200,000. The Jacksons say both offers are well under fair market value.

Department of General Services spokesman Troy Thompson says the process was not flawed.

“This is not an issue of discrimination,” said Thompson, “It is an issue of disagreement. We have two parties who can’t agree on what the value of  a certain property should be.” 

Thompson says they have negotiated in good faith with the Jackson family and continue to wait for more information from them to justify their latest offer.

The Jacksons have retained legal counsel and are weighing their options.

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