Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg approves eminent domain to acquire Public Works facility

image of Public Works Department building, located at former Brenner autodealership

The Harrisburg Public Works Department on Paxton Street.

Harrisburg plans to force the sale of the land that houses its Public Works Department, as the city has not been able to reach a purchase agreement with the owner.

City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday night to begin the eminent domain process for the large tract at 1812-1820 Paxton St., the former site of a Brenner car dealership. The Allison Hill property actually includes eight separate parcels owned by MEB Partners and Brenner Motors.

“We were unable to reach a mutually agreeable price with Mr. Brenner,” Mayor Eric Papenfuse said following the council meeting.

Papenfuse would not disclose the price that the city offered or how much the owners wanted for the property. However, he said that the two sides were far apart.

“I don’t think we came close enough to be in the neighborhood,” Papenfuse said.

In its 2017 municipal budget, the city had allocated $2.5 million to obtain a public works facility.

Harrisburg moved its Public Works Department to the site in 2014. It long had been located on the grounds of the city incinerator in South Harrisburg, but had to relocate following the sale of the incinerator to the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority.

Papenfuse said that negotiations for the land broke down last year, after which the city stopped paying rent. The city will compensate the owner for back rent as part of the final sales process, he said.

Harrisburg now has a year to complete the eminent domain process. The city, Papenfuse said, has the authority to take the property, but a Dauphin County judge will determine the final sales price based on an official appraisal, assuming the city and the property owner still are unable reach an agreement in the interim.

Papenfuse said the city would have preferred not to exercise eminent domain, but that the two sides couldn’t reach an agreement, and there was no other suitable site in the city for the department.

“It’s the perfect site for the city,” he said. “It needs to be outside of the flood plain and large enough to handle our entire fleet.”

In other city land news, council on Tuesday introduced a resolution to approve the land use plan for the proposed state Archives building at Harris, Hamilton, N. 6th and N. 7th streets. Council next will hold a hearing on the plan before voting on it.

A graphic of the planned state Archives building on N. 6th and Hamilton streets.

The state is seeking to build a new facility after running out of room at its iconic mid-century Archives tower on Forster Street. It plans to break ground on the project next year, with a two-year construction period expected.

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