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Bennett takes PennDOT to court

Published October 18. 2019 12:24PM

A local developer’s quest to save his property from eminent domain action hit the courtroom on Thursday afternoon.

Joseph Bennett is challenging the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s attempt to take his land along Route 443 next to Aldi’s for stormwater basins related to an upcoming road widening and improvement project along the thoroughfare.

During testimony in front of Carbon County Common Pleas Judge Joseph J. Matika, Bennett said he purchased the property near the end of 2017 with the intent of developing the site for a Kentucky Fried Chicken location, among other commercial business. Upon learning of PennDOT’s plans to use the property for infiltration and detention basins, Bennett asked for a meeting with the department and its engineers, when he suggested they locate the basins on a property to the rear of his owned by the Rudelitsch estate.

“We met with PennDOT at the site in May 2018 and showed them where a pond would be better located,” Bennett said. “The whole point of the 443 project is to widen the road to create better access to the large number of businesses along that road. Nobody is going to turn off there to go to a pond. They are going to go to a KFC. There were other alternatives to accomplish PennDOT’s goal. The property in the back was less valuable and a better fit.”

According to testimony taken Thursday, PennDOT responded 32 days later and said the change couldn’t be made. It filed the declaration of taking against Bennett in December 2018.

Joseph Digirolamo, an engineer with Taylor Wiseman & Taylor, who was contracted by PennDOT to work on the project design, said they began analysis in 2012.

“Over the course of the next three to four years, we evaluated every option we could,” Digirolamo said. “We took into account almost every environmental concern you can think of. We evaluated the whole 443 corridor and the Bennett property, in our opinion, was the best location for these basins.”

Digirolamo said his firm did a sketch to determine whether the basins would fit on the Rudelitsch property and determined they would not. No further testing, he said, was done to determine the feasibility of locating the basins there.

Bennett’s attorney, Francis Hoegen, argued that by May 2018, when Bennett met with PennDOT and Digirolamo, design plans were so far along that PennDOT did not even want to consider moving the basins because of the delays it would have caused for both continued design and the start of construction.

“It took two to three years to get to final design and determine the Bennett property was best for the basins, but in just 32 days you determined relocation was not a possibility,” Hoegen said. “Had PennDOT taken more time and care, Mr. Bennett could have pursued his commercial development.”

According to Digirolamo, 1,500 feet of additional pipe would have been necessary to run the drainage back to the Rudelitsch property.

“We had no environmental clearances for that property at that point,” Digirolamo said. “It would have likely cost another $200,000 from a design standpoint and another year to fully study whether that area could support basins.”

Greg Haas of Carbon Engineering testified on Bennett’s behalf and said it would have been “very feasible” to relocate the basins to the north of Bennett’s property.

Hoegen planned to call an additional witness, an appraiser, to testify regarding the loss of revenue to Bennett over PennDOT’s decision to take his land. Bennett said that instead of being located on his property, the KFC will now be built between McDonald’s and the PennDOT driver’s license center further west along Route 443, and a Wendy’s, which had also been planned for his site, will now be where pediatrician Dr. Narenda Ambani’s office is located.

PennDOT’s attorney, Robert Kopacz, countered, saying the department would have compensation conversations with Bennett, but that was for an other day.

Matika gave Hoegen seven days to present any case law showing why Bennett’s loss of revenue was applicable to Thursday’s argument, before ruling on Bennett’s objections.

Comments
PennDOT sucks. This whole branch of bullies needs to be dissolved and started over. There is more of us then there is of them. A loud message-sending protest should be organized. These rotten ignorant government employees all go home to their nice cozy tax payer paid for homes, while heartlessly condemning the homes and properties of others. When you've had enough of their rampant corruption, let lackluster Governor Wolfe know and his crony Leslie Richard's, who by the way are also holed up in tax payer funded luxurious homes.
This is just a show and a churn of the system.

PENN DOT starts a stupid and absurd fight with someone that has a few bucks to defend himself. Lawyers are paid, the courts are paid, the system is used, everyone pays.

Then, PENN DOT uses common sense logic, and will concede with some authoritarian restriction, and Voila. Back where we all were a year earlier, just more poor as individuals and a community, and more frustrated with the illogic of a system. PENN DOT has every right to be stupid, and use prime frontage real estate for non prime purposes. Even to mention of using eminent domain probably damaged the man's property value. Would you buy it from him if he was selling it after reading this article?

Then, we realize the purpose of the system is cash flow, and those rewarded most are those making the most absurd arguments, siphoning the cash flow from the sreationnof a physical device or structure to an intellectual game of cat and mouse.

The consumer is the only payer in our system. So if PENN DOT loses or argues we pay, and if Penn dot 'wins' with absurdity, we pay. War games taught us that the only way to win is to not play these illogical games of absurdity, ensuring endless mutual consumption by use of a system that profits from abusive use.

Sincerely,

Citizen David F. Bradley Sr.
The poor property owner should consider suing in federal court for unequal protection. Have those disreputable crooks show at least one, just one, instance of when Eminent Domain was used against a PennDot Executive or a sitting politician. This certainly sounds like unequal protection and warrants a Constitutional Complaint.
"Poor Property Owner"? You are an ignorant sack of monkey pus. Bennett is a profiteering fast food monger with a record. How stupid can you be? You wouldn't know the constitution if your master rolled it up and smacked you on the nose for pissing on the carpet.
CT, how stupid can you be that you are unable to conduct a civil interaction with another human being? How is it that you insult and hate people that you don’t even know? You are a rude, vulgar, hateful cyber bully. Jealousy is your master. You make yourself out to be a jerk with your shameful posts. If you had any brains you would be ashamed of yourself. If you are so great why don’t you open up several restaurants in the area? That would be better than complaining about everything. Step up big mouth.
Again, organize a Protest. People should get riled up. When anyone of us falls victim to an arm of Government that we pay for, we should join together in fighting for change. Ours must surely rank near the top of the most corrupt Departments of Transportation. We after all, pay heavily with our hearts, our souls, and our dollars to fund 12 Different PennDOT Districts. That means that the tax payers pay for 12 of each high level positions. We are robbed of our livelihoods because of this insatiable greed. And when we given our all, they come back and snatch our homes and properties. Whenever you have had enough reach out to our disappearing Governor who hasn't been seen in public or seen to do anything helpful in a very long time.
This is no joke. The property represents one man's dreams. No one should be allowed to steal someone's dreams and their property too.They have gotten way out of hand with garnering a bulk share of tax, with being able to take someone's home and property, with ducking behind immunity claims. Join and Protest. This is about "inclusion ". Include PennDOT Executives and sitting politicians homes and properties in Eminent Domain proceedings!
Planning for the PennDOT project started in 2012, and the property was purchased in late 2017. Mr. Bennett is not stupid, he is very smart businessman and knew what he was purchasing. Just saying....Mr. Bennett has purchased a lot of properties and developed a lot of constrained & hard to develop properties. He knows how to make a few dollars.
Yes, PennDot is evil, and whether Mr.Bennett knows " how to make a buck" totally misses the mark. Are you saying that He should be cheated and have his property taken because he has been successful in earning a living in the past? Everyone should support Mr. Bennett and be outraged on his behalf. But for the grace of God crooked PennDOT could be eyeing up your land next. Every time we say nothing when this happens we just reinforce the corrupt regime that we live under. When you have had enough, let disappearing Governor Wolf know as well as the ridiculous Leslie Richards.
This will blow your mind.

Will the cabal of the LASD join with Bennett and spend taxpayer money with their litigation happy solicitor to help KFC keep the road front and become a LASD taxpayer? This reeks of PENN DOT not supporting the children.

After all, how will the Hometown team be able to take enough taxes to fund their massive budget increases if PENN DOT uses their eminent domain?

Immoral hometown taxers could destroy our community if they are allowed to continue down the path of over consumption and failed oversight.

Andrew Yenser failed to provide proper oversight in the transition of business managers. Where is his apology, and resignation?

Sincerely,

Citizen David F. Bradley Sr.
Whenever you have had enough reach out to the disappearing Governor Wolf and the ridiculous Leslie Richards, and then organize a (peaceful) protest!
We need to shine a VERY bright light on any taxpayer funded agency that fails to EQUALLY protect the very constituents that support them.
We need to shine a VERY bright light on any taxpayer funded agency that fails to EQUALLY protect the very constituents that support them.
This project was planned way before JB bought the land. Everyone new it was going to happen. Don;t come crying now that your plans are ruined. You should have done better research. Sounds like a ploy to get more money out of Penn Dot. Hope he looses in court, but he'll still get a good sum of money for the land. By the way, how much did Penn Dot offer for the land?
Mr. Bradley should be careful with slamming other organizations. I wonder if he has all his approvals from PennDOT? Just saying...
Stick to the story-line please, and don't try to intimidate other writers. Each of us is allowed to have an opinion and to have a voice.

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