ROCKWELL, NC (WBTV) - A month after a business owner in Rockwell said the state was condemning his property to make road improvements, there is more controversy at the mechanic shop along Highway 52.
Derek Sifford, owner of Sifford's Service on Highway 52, told WBTV last month that the state of North Carolina could come in at any time and shut off the water, turn off the lights, or change the locks on the doors.
Thursday morning, crews were at the shop preparing to tear down the canopy out front, but Sifford was still inside working.
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.
“They bought it, took it, however it's theirs, you don't have to tell anybody what you're going to do with your property," Sifford told WBTV. “I didn't get a second offer, they called my attorney back and said they was moving to condemnation, didn't expect me to take any offer they made, they were out of time.”
Sifford did accept a check from the state for $214,000, but didn't want to take the deal from the state because he does not believe it is fair market value for his property. He said that it would not be possible for him to move his equipment and set up in another location for that amount.
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 couldn't afford to take the state's offer.
“Oh, I've got compensation, they have to file the check with the lawsuit, I've got their money," Sifford added. “It's $100,000 short to what the neighbor got. How do I end up $100,000 short? Nobody has answered that.”
Crews stopped working temporarily on the canopy Thursday morning when WBTV arrived at the scene and started rolling. The group turned around a big sign that had placed by the road with the company name and logo, and walked across the street.
Those crews returned about ninety minutes later with more equipment. Sifford said he didn't think the crew knew what a difficult job it was going to be to take down the canopy, and had to reassess how they would do it.
While all of this was going on right outside his front door, Sifford continued working on a backlog of cars for his customers. He says he will stay in the building until the state turns off the water or changes the locks.
“I just work 12-15 hours a day and keep going," Sifford said. “It's been a three year pain, it really has.”
In regards to the Sifford case, Miracle King, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation referred WBTV to a DOT web site that explains the process of property acquisition:
“The process is not taken lightly, it is not rushed,” King told WBTV. “It is a fair and legal process.”
King said that the state is not responsible for helping Sifford start another business, but is responsible for having him walk away with the fair value of his property.
“The time of acquisition can be painful, but it's necessary for us to grow as a state,” King added. “He had a hand in how things turned out.”
In a pre
ss release provided to WBTV earlier, the Department of Transportation explained the reason for the changes to the intersection:
The N.C. Department of Transportation has determined how it will improve safety at the intersection of U.S. 52 and Anthony, Crescent and Gold Knob roads near Rockwell in Rowan County. NCDOT will turn Gold Knob Road into a dead end, and realign Anthony and Crescent roads to reduce crashes and enhance traffic flow at this five-legged intersection.
"We based our decision on a number of important factors," said Pat Ivey, NCDOT Division 9 Engineer. "We talked to area residents in person, reviewed written comments from the public, studied crash data, and analyzed the potential effects to the local environment. The insight we gleaned from that process showed us this was the best option."
NCDOT originally presented the public with two possible options for improving safety at the intersection. Alternative 1 is the option NCDOT selected, known as the Preferred Alternative. The other option considered, Alternative 2, would have turned Anthony Road into a dead end and realigned Gold Knob and Crescent roads. The department explained both alternatives to citizens at a workshop on Jan. 17 in Salisbury, which 61 people attended.
NCDOT statistics show 17 crashes, including one fatality, have occurred at the intersection from 2008-2010. In addition, current total crash rates at the intersection exceed the statewide total crash rate for U.S. routes in rural areas. Reconfiguring the intersection will help prevent dangerous accidents.