There's a figure of speech, "you can't stop a moving train." Among Somerville businesses who may get supplanted by the Green Line extension, the phrase is being discussed more literally.
That's why as Bob Rosselli goes to work at his auto body shop, Ball Square Auto Repair, he's feeling confined. Not because he's been working at the old place for over 40 years. He's dreading the day that the Green Line extension comes to acquire his building, which falls under the space needed for the Green Line's Ball Square station, and must be acquired under eminent domain to be demolished.
"My main concern is that they're taking my bread and butter away," Rosselli said. "If they give me enough to buy another place it wouldn't be a problem, but I know they're not going to."
According to the MBTA Acquisition Process, an acquisition for land can only take place if voted upon by the Board of Directors of the MBTA after appropriate appraisals. The "just compensation" awarded from damages must meet state and federal regulations as well as compliance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices.
Project director Katherine Fitcher of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said that some properties would need to be acquired to create adequate space for the right-of-way of the new line.
"The acquisitions are quite minimal, and where we do have to do them, the majority are at stations sites," Fitcher said.
She also noted MassDOT's openness in discussing problems with local businesses. "We're not hiding anything," she said.
Rosselli said he was loath to think of the grinding process. "Everyone I talk to says in eminent domain they give me pennies on the dollar," he said. "You got to fight them for everything."
Rosselli speaks from personal experience. In 1970, when construction on Route Two came through his mother's property on Magnolia Street in Arlington, she was forced to sell her nine house lots for $4,000 apiece, a sum made smaller by $1,000 due to legal fees. "Buy me a lot for $3,000," he says. "I'd give you double that right now."
Ron Bonnie, Chairman of the Somerville Chamber of Commerce was less sure of possible financial injustice. "I think that the value of the property around here is going to go up significantly. I think anyone that has bought in Ball Square has made a great investment," he said.
In Somerville, two businesses falling under eminent domain are Rosselli's auto repair shop and the MS Walker liquor distillery. MS Walker falls under the new "Option L" plan and their space is needed for a new maintenance facility that will service construction of the line.
Scott Allen, representing the company at the recent environment report meeting, voiced his company's worries about having to move their plant. "There is a high probability of potential losses of jobs due to this project," he said. Allen said he hoped there were other viable options that would not disrupt his 80-year-old business and impact over 300 employees.
Speaking of spirits purveyors, Bonnie was less sure of how the acquisition would be appraised. "MS Walker is a unique situation," he said. "The building is actually a living breathing part of the business." MS Walker's on-site plant would require a huge new space that might not be available.
"It's extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive for us to reconstruct a new facility with new codes and regulations and to find a town that will take us," Allen said.
"They pay you without a doubt the value of the land," Bonnie said. "You can argue about the value of the business, but that's usually a separate issue."
Rosselli said he had been hoping to use the body shop as a "retirement fund," and worries about his future without it. "If they did pay me whatever the thing was worth it isn't worth it to me anyway," he said. "It's a good old building. It's made me a living and everyone else that's come here."