SWATARA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — The state is taking properties through eminent domain in order to make way for the ongoing I-83 expansion project in Dauphin County.
But some business owners aren’t happy with the amount they’re being paid to move and also want the money up front.
Greg Sorensen runs a grooming business, insurance company, and phone store out of this house on Derry Street in Swatara Township, Dauphin County.
“The house that we have here is going to be demolished and we have to move all three businesses to a new location,” Sorensen said.
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He says PennDOT bought the house for fair value, but he says that’s about the only thing that’s fair.
“The floors are floor to ceiling tile with tiled drains in the floor. Again, the shop we’re moving into doesn’t have this. It doesn’t exist. This by itself is a $10,000 add,” Sorensen said.
That’s just one section of his grooming business that he’s spent 17 years improving upon.
PennDOT gives a flat $25,000 to rebuild infrastructure inside.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a $20,000 business or a million dollar business,” Sorensen said. “Everybody gets $25,000 a fixed number and then to make it even worse we’re now at a 9% inflation rate. And there is no inflation clause.”
PennDOT will reimburse other reasonable moving and reinstallation costs, but Sorensen says he has to front the money.
“We’re having to borrow money to do the project to pay our bills so that we can then turn around and submit a bill to PennDOT and wait the four to six weeks to get reimbursed. So it’s a it’s a large expense for us,” Sorensen said.
While PennDOT already purchased the house, he says he’s not there rent free.
“Now I’m paying for two locations, two electric bills, two water bills, two insurance policies two yards to cut two roofs to maintain, two airconditioning systems to maintain. So my expenses have doubled. And we don’t get reimbursed for that,” Sorensen said.
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Sorensen says PennDOT won’t allow him to collect rent from his tenant upstairs because it owns the house now. He says PennDOT is paying that tenant $28,000 to move out of the rental into a new one, while Sorensen has to renovate the new one out of pocket.
“Business owners get the short end property owners regular residential owners or renters, they get a sweetheart deal,” Sorensen said.
A PennDOT spokesperson says they understand Sorensen’s frustration, but they’re following the eminent domain law and that’s all they can do.
Sorensen says he wants business owners to be treated more fairly and would like to see legislators change the law.
He has until December to move out.
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