There is an eminent domain battle brewing in Lebanon County.
On Wednesday night, representatives for the Pa. National Guard came to the regular meeting of the Union Township, Lebanon County Board of Supervisors. They wanted to answer any questions about a planned expansion of the base.
Fort Indiantown Gap wants to expand to protect residents from new bullets that ricochet further.
They plan to purchase private land surrounding the training grounds, whether neighbors like it or not. Many of them have spoken out against the plan.
There are 16 property owners that would have their land acquired on the other side of the mountain. Many of them were at the meeting. They were not in a selling mood, or in a mood to buy the military’s explanation of safety.
“It’s a one in a million chance of that bullet coming over,” said property owner Anita Flick. “You’re going to get hit with lightning sooner than that.”
“The only way that we can do this currently within our resources is with acquiring more safety buffer,” said David Weisnicht, the deputy base operations manager.
Residents still say there are other ways the Gap can make it safe, like putting a mound of sand or dirt behind the targets.
“If you put sand mounds all along where they’re firing into, how can the bullet ricochet,” asked Township Supervisor Larry Wolfe. “It’s a lot cheaper than buying their land.”
“What did you do to try to stop the bullet from going any further than it is?” asked property owner Deb Reiner. “Show us that cost that it would cost you to do something else other than take our land.”
The question was asked then what the army would do if the residents would not sell? Would they resort to eminent domain?
“That I couldn’t say, sir,” said Weisnicht. “They’re very determined to keep those ranges open. They’re critical ranges.”
“Our goal is and always has been: willing buyer, willing seller transaction,” said Major Angela King-Sweigart of the Pa. National Guard.
Every resident we talked to said they will not sell, especially if they don’t start getting some straight answers.
“I’m all for the military for what they do for us,” said property owner Al Reiner. “But what we’re being told in there and what we’ve been told so far…I don’t trust them. And they want the land for some other reason than they ricochet.”