Steelton has turned to eminent domain to try to go ahead with its multimillion-dollar renovation plan following opposition from three property owners.
Yefim Bik, owner of Bik's Auto Sales in the shadow of a former steel mill, and two other landowners have rejected offers to sell parcels on Front Street. Bik said he cannot rebuild his business for the amount the borough wanted to pay.
Steelton now is trying to seize the car lot, a grocery store and a bookstore and barbershop and pass them on to the town's development corporation, which would demolish the buildings for private development.
"The New Steelton" plan calls for new offices, storefronts, gaslight-style streetlights and a grand plaza across from Borough Hall within a decade. Michael G. Musser II, borough secretary, says the facelift would bring about $32 million worth of development and 500 jobs.
"Our goal was never to have to go this far," Musser said of the use of eminent domain. "This is what we have to do to keep the project going. Our job is to do what's in the best interests of the town."
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 allowed a Connecticut city to seize homes for a private developer. Following the ruling, Pennsylvania's General Assembly barred the use of eminent domain to convey unblighted property to a commercial developer.
But Steelton filed its eminent domain actions in court on Aug. 31, a day before the new law took effect - so Musser said it does not apply.
Centre County PA Daily Times: http://www.centredaily.com