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Thursday, 12 July 2012 18:52

Body Shop Owner is Last Holdout Against Route 28 Expansion in PA

William Lieberth Sr., 56, owner of Allegheny Auto Body in West Deer, PA, has been at the same location on East Ohio Street since 1976. However, he is being told he must move his shop by Aug. 6.

Mr. Lieberth is trying to save his shop.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has told Mr. Lieberth that the ongoing Route 28 expansion requires use of his building and its adjacent parking lot. The state has acquired the land through eminent domain and Mr. Lieberth is required to vacate the property by Aug. 6.

"But I have no intention of leaving," Mr. Lieberth. He says he wants to leave the shop to his son, Bill Lieberth, 34.

In 1976, Mr. Lieberth's father purchased the 7,000-square-foot Allegheny Auto Body shop and adjoining 7,000-square-foot parking, located at 1306-1308-1310 E. Ohio Street. Mr. Lieberth, in turn, planned to pass it on to his own son when he retired.

That plan was upended in late 2006, when PennDOT began the process of acquiring the property needed to widen Route 28. Since then, 15 residences and 24 businesses have been relocated, most of them with amicable settlements, District 11 spokesman Jim Struzzi said.

The agency first contacted Mr. Lieberth about acquiring his property and relocating his business in March 2007, Mr. Struzzi wrote. No agreement was reached in the ensuing years, and on Nov. 11, 2011, PennDOT paid Mr. Lieberth $115,000 for his property, including liens, and took ownership of the property.

PennDOT sent Mr. Lieberth in early July stating that he must vacate the building by Aug. 6 so the Route 28 work can proceed. Mr. Lieberth said he can return PennDOT's check and that he plans to stay. He argues that PennDOT can build around him because in 2003 the agency shifted its expansion of Route 28 to avoid St. Nicholas Church, the auto shop's neighbor.

The plan still requires Mr. Lieberth's property, Mr. Struzzi said. With the exception of the church, Mr. Lieberth is the only remaining property owner along the stretch of road.

Mr. Lieberth sent a letter last week to Gov. Tom Corbett, asking that PennDOT either build around him, give him enough money to retire or let him move his business to a lot nearby. The governor's press office did not return requests for a comment.

Meanwhile, both Mr. Lieberth and PennDOT have appealed the case to the Board of Viewers. If Mr. Lieberth does not vacate his building by Aug. 6, Mr. Struzzi said PennDOT will file a legal petition to begin eviction proceedings.

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