EMINENT DOMAIN PAINS - Route 18 work creating hardship for residents: Quincy MA Patriot Ledger, 2/13/07

By Jack Encarnacao

All along Route 18 [in Weymouth MA], pink- and orange-tipped wooden stakes mark the land that residents and business owners are losing to a project that will widen the entire stretch of road to four lanes over the next two years.

In some cases, the road widening has forced longstanding businesses to shrink or move. Some Main Street residents will end up with much less land between their front steps and the Route 18 traffic.

‘‘It’s going to be a pain in the neck, there’s no two ways about it,’’ said Alice Brennan, who has lived on Main Street near the Route 3 ramps for 40 years. She lost a 10-foot deep strip of land along the road, including some hedges and trees.

‘‘The 10 feet doesn’t look too bad, but they’re almost in the living room,’’ she said.

The construction has created hardship for residents and businesses along Route 18. The road, untouched by major construction for decades, shrinks from three lanes to one in a matter of 100 yards.

At the intersection of Middle and West streets, the Getty gas station has closed. Preferred Automotive is losing its entire parking lot, and the wrecking ball is headed for a brick office building that has long housed a barber shop, a telescope repair shop and a printing business.

‘‘I probably lost about 30 percent out of my regular clientele,’’ said Ken Mather, whose Main Street Barber Shop was one of the three businesses in the 526 Main Street office building. ‘‘You can't just get up and move five miles away in my business because you have your clientele. It was very nerve-wracking.’’

Mather has moved his business to nearby Columbian Square, where new customers are starting to discover him. His shop is now called South Weymouth Barber Shop.

Other businesses are facing more daunting challenges.

Dean Carlton, owner of Preferred Automotive, said his business is shrinking considerably after thriving on Route 18 for 17 years. He said the state will take some 70,000 square feet of his land by eminent domain, including his parking lot.

Carlton has hired someone to look for a new space for him to relocate. Due to lack of parking space, he will have to close his auto repair section and limit his business to oil changes and used car sales.

‘‘I did think of relocating out of this state or just closing,’’ Carlton said. ‘‘But after 17 years of developing relationships with customers, it’s kind of hard to turn your back on them. That's why I'm hopefully opening really close by. We'll be suffering.’’

The $21.2 million Route 18 project was an inevitability for a road that will be an access point to a redeveloped South Weymouth Naval Air Station and the growing suburbs south of Weymouth, Mayor David Madden said.

‘‘The reality is we have the traffic and it’s not going away,’’ Madden said. ‘‘This is a real commuter road, a connector road to anybody south of us. We need a way to funnel that traffic. In the long run, we as a community weren't going to be able to function without improvements to Route 18.’’

Joseph Clancy, who owns Century House Realty on Main Street and is losing almost 4,000 square feet of property, said Weymouth residents should benefit more from the project than they are.

‘‘People may get to Halifax five minutes earlier, but it’s not a benefit to the people who live here,’’ Clancy said. ‘‘The citizens who have been here for years are taking the brunt of it.’’

Madden said some of the state’s land takings were unfortunate, and some took residents by surprise.

‘‘I think there were some land clearings that people weren’t quite prepared for,’’ he said. ‘‘People had decorated trees for Christmas and the next thing you know the tree is down.’’

The state has paid about $2.1 million for Route 18 property taken by eminent domain.

The state calculates reimbursements based on what state-paid appraisers determine to be fair market value. Some residents and business owners say the money they’ve gotten is not enough.

Howard Maglathlin said moving his telescope repair shop business, Viking Instruments, from Route 18 to a smaller spot near his Kingston home ended up costing about $100,000. The state paid him about $40,000.

‘‘That didn't cover my time,’’ Maglathlin said of the reimbursement. ‘‘Since like May ... I’ve literally only taken off a couple of days. We have hundreds of thousands of parts that have to be moved, reorganized and put back into place. We’re still not caught up.’’

Property owners must hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against the state, a costly process, to appeal their reimbursement amount. State Highway Department spokesman Erik Abell said eminent domain takings are difficult, but the system is fair.

‘‘The bottom line is the state is looking to offer a fair price for the property,’’ Abell said.

Residents who live just off of Route 18 are also losing land. Columbian Street resident Matt Poulin estimates he’ll lose about 200 square feet of his front lawn because his street is being widened where it intersects with Route 18. He said the $3,100 he’s been offered by the state is a pittance for the loss in property value he expects.

‘‘(The state) seems to think that they’re doing me a favor (with the reimbursement),’’ he said. ‘‘I keep telling them, no, I'm doing you a favor. You’re getting my property, something I can never reclaim. Everything’s going to be definitely different.’’

Route 18 land takings
  • Ken Mather had to close his Main Street Barber Shop;
    State reimbursement: $15,000
  • Joseph Clancy lost 3,800 square feet of his property at 457 Main St.;
    State reimbursement: $30,000
  • Howard Maglathlin had to move his Viking Instruments telescope repair shop near his home in Kingston, which he estimated cost $100,000;
    State reimbursement: About $40,000
  • Dean Carlton has to close the repair portion of his Preferred Automotive automobile shop because the state has taken his parking lot by eminent domain;
    Reimbursement: $100,000

Quincy MA Patriot Ledger: http://ledger.southofboston.com