Rounds of applause filtered out of a back room at Bill Bateman's Bistro in Hanover.
Behind a large white sign proclaiming their message, members of the organization Citizens Against Eminent Domain Abuse brought their campaign to the Hanover area Monday.
"Everyone is here for the same reason," said group member Russ Robertson. "We don't agree with eminent domain in particular situations."
Robertson mentioned the Heston family of Penn Township as an example of eminent domain being abused.
Dana and Bill Heston are in a battle with local developer Paul Burkentine over their home at 823 York St. Burkentine plans to build homes on a tract behind the Heston property, but can't move forward on the project unless he acquires the Hestons' home so a traffic signal can be installed at York and Center streets.
The Hestons have said they will move, but haven't yet been offered fair-market value for their home. And they say the township has threatened to use eminent domain to take their home – a claim township officials deny.
The Hestons attended the meeting and were the main reason the group of eminent-domain opponents came to Hanover. Among the 10 or so residents who attended was Ron Kohr, of Lower Windsor Township, whose family is also facing the seizure of their property by eminent domain.
York County Commissioners Lori Mitrick and Doug Kilgore voted in November 2005 to condemn 411 acres of the Kohr property – Lauxmont Farms – to build a park. The Kohrs are fighting the taking.
The meeting served to spread the organization's message to Hanover and showcase candidates endorsed by the group for Penn Township and York County commissioner.
Robertson said eminent domain has been a major issue in York County over the past year. But by electing the right candidates, he said the issue "can be beat in 15 days."
The organization is endorsing Craig Prieber, Walt Rewa and Dan Goldsmith, all of whom attended Monday's meeting, for Penn Township commissioner.
Dana Heston said she knows the candidates will elicit positive change in the community and be good replacements for incumbent Joe Klunk whom "many of us have problems with."
Klunk has been the only commissioner to speak on the issue of eminent domain, and he only did so once, during a public meeting by making a statement on behalf of the board of commissioners.
Klunk said in the statement the township has not considered using eminent domain on the Heston property, but Dana Heston said that is a lie.
"That statement still stands. It's been a private matter between them and the developer," Klunk said this morning.
Klunk acknowledged interrupting Heston at a recent meeting, saying the public-comment portion of the meeting is for comments, not a question-and-answer session with the commissioners.
He said that's because public comment is a time for the public to comment on whatever is on their mind; it's not a time for discussion. If someone has an issue they can bring it up at a committee meeting where discussions can take place, he said.
Klunk feels the issues that have been brought up by the Hestons were politically motivated.
"There's three positions open and I'm the only incumbent. I have the target on my back," Klunk said.
Goldsmith said he has been working with the Hestons for quite a while, trying to find a solution to their problem.
"Hopefully, in the future, if all three of us get elected, there won't be a problem," Goldsmith said. "Some already on the board have lost sight that they are doing their job for the people. I am willing to listen to the people, their ideas and beliefs. To be a leader, you have to listen to the people."
Prieber and Rewa agreed with Goldsmith. The three candidates are running as a team.
Rewa said Commissioner Mike Johnson is the reason all three candidates are running for commissioner and he has helped the hopefuls run their campaign. His leadership, Rewa said, earned Johnson the title of "mother" to the three men.
"I voted for Mike every election he ran," Rewa said. "He always did exactly what he said he was going to do."
York County Commissioner Steve Chronister was upset that more residents didn't attend Monday's meeting.
"Where's all the Hanover people?" Chronister asked. "They should be here."
Citizens Against Eminent Domain Abuse is endorsing Chronister of West Manchester Township, Chuck Richards of Dover Township, Ned Grove of Windsor Township and Doug Hoke of Dover Township for county commissioner.
"My dream is to wake up the day after the primary and see the headline Mitrick and Kilgore defeated," Robertson said.
Richards, Grove and Hoke also attended the meeting and said every resident they talked to is concerned with the commissioners' views on personal-property rights.
"Use your voice," Hoke said. "Go talk to people. Tell them to vote for people who have your same beliefs."
Robertson advocated for everyone to spread the word and vote for the candidates the group is endorsing.
"I think we can all see the wheels of change starting to turn here," Robertson said.
Hanover PA Evening Sun: http://www.eveningsun.com