State files suit, condemns mechanic shop on Highway 52

State files suit, condemns mechanic shop on Highway 52

ROCKWELL, N.C. (WBTV) - On Tuesday Derek Sifford was working underneath an older model Buick Century, while a parking lot full of other cars waited on him.

He went about his business even though he is aware that at any moment the state of North Carolina could come in and shut off the water, turn off the lights, or change the locks on the doors.

Sifford is a mechanic, and until the last few weeks was the owner of Sifford's Service on Highway 52 in Rockwell.

“As soon as those papers hit my hand, it is their legal tender ownership,” Sifford told WBTV. “There's nothing I can do.”

The state now owns the property, having filed suit in court to condemn the property so that it may be used for safety improvements at the intersection of Highway 52 and Gold Knob Road.

It doesn't have to end this way, Sifford says. If the state would only offer would he believes is fair market value for his property instead of the $214,000 offer now on the table.

“Whenever they decide to some down here and kill my water, there goes my water and my septic, “ Sifford said. “I don't think it's ethical, considering the amount of money people have been paid for property in this area for a commercial business.”

The state has already paid other property owners. A small retail store directly across from Sifford's was bulldozed months ago.

Sifford says other property owners have been more fairly compensated for their land and says he can't afford to take the state's offer.

“Tax value currently today is $145,000, what they've offered me is roughly $70 grand over tax value," Sifford told WBTV.  "The people they've already paid, same business, death of a business, his tax value was $45,000, if you rounded it up, he ended up with $191,000. That's why I won't consider it.”

Sifford says the retail business that moved simply had to pack up its products and leave, while he would have very high expenses associated with moving lifts, air conditioning units, and other equipment he uses in his auto repair shop.

"Eminent domain gives the state the right to take private property, a person's own property for the good of the state where that good is identified, and to compensate the people for the property that is taken," said local attorney Carlyle Sherrill.  

Sherrill is not involved in the Sifford case, but does have experience in eminent domain law.

"The property owner has the right to challenge the amount that they're to get in damages," Sherrill added.

Sifford says he has already spent $11,000 for an attorney with eminent domain and EPA expertise and isn't sure what he will do at this point.