- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - Not one bark could be heard inside Wayport Kennels on Monday morning. The 92 indoor/outdoor kennels and 15 cat condos were all empty for the first time in years.

Outside, north of the building, a mustard-colored hulk of a machine chewed up trees. The cracking and crunching almost drowned out the sound of traffic passing by on Ind. 37 just a few yards away.

Just south of Wayport Kennels, a pile of tan wood chips could be seen from the highway where several trees already had been demolished.

It wasn’t always like this. Wayport Kennels opened in the late 1960s, said Chuck Pate, Wayport’s owner. He started working there in high school, caring for pets people dropped off on their way out of town. He would feed and water them and make sure they were as comfortable as possible until their owners turned right from southbound Ind. 37 onto the concrete driveway. It was a convenient location for customers, which made it a great location for the business.

“That’s going to be a thing of the past, thanks to I-69,” Pate told The Herald-Times (https://bit.ly/1ALLCNE ).

Wayport Kennels is one of about 15 businesses along the 21-mile stretch of Ind. 37 between Bloomington and Martinsville that have been affected by the impending Interstate 69 construction.

The state highway is being upgraded to interstate standards. That means businesses must be demolished for new interchanges and access roads. Private drives can’t connect directly onto an interstate, so traffic needs to be rerouted. In the case of Wayport Kennels, which has a private drive, there was no easy way to reroute traffic, said Will Wingfield, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman. That, along with plans to shift the highway slightly west, led to the decision to take the property.

For travelers, all these changes will mean fewer stops on their way to Indianapolis. For the Department of Transportation, it will mean progress on a project critics said would never be completed. But for business owners like David England, it’s something else entirely.

“It’s a pain in the butt,” he said.

England owns Wylie’s Floor Covering. The retail store moved to 1130 S. Walnut St. a few years ago, but for more than two decades, Wylie’s Floor Covering has had a warehouse at 100 E. Sample Road.

“We built that warehouse to be everything we wanted it to be,” England said.

Unfortunately, they built it on land the state said it needs for I-69. Now, everything on the nearly 8-acre property, including the 16,000-square-foot warehouse and several storage units that could be rented for $100 a month, belong to the state.

Not everything about the deal was bad for England, though.

“The money they gave us to move was too much, I thought,” he said.

The biggest problem for England, however, was that his move-out date kept getting postponed. Being able to stay longer than expected might seem like a good thing, but it created a logistical challenge. England said he would find a new warehouse; then the date would get pushed back. Not wanting to pay for something he didn’t need, he would let the new warehouse go, and then have to start the process over again when he got a new move-out date.

He’s found a new warehouse now, but it’s not going to work, he said.

“When they’re empty, they look big,” he said. “Our new place is full, and this is our slowest time of the year. I bet we have to rent another warehouse.”

Still, England said, his situation might be better than others’.

Some businesses, like Nature’s Way Landscaping, had only a portion of their land taken. Owner Jeremiah Young said the state took three of the 10 acres his business sat on: two acres to the north and one acre for a frontage road that will divide the property. As a result, Nature’s Way had to take out its prep area, nursery, mulch pad and parking for nearly 50 employees, he said. “Before it’s over, what little hair I have left may be gone,” he said.

Young said he first learned his business would be affected by the highway when a reporter called him in 2012. Then, there were endless meetings with the Department of Transportation. Some were really cooperative, but Young said he would still prefer to have not had them.

Young said he considered relocating. He looked at more than 50 properties over a two-month period, but ultimately decided the best choice was to stay put.

“Once the decision is made, we’ve got to live with it,” he said. “Is it a predicament or an opportunity?”

Young said Nature’s Way is being reconfigured to optimize the space it has left.

“We’re just still trying to make lemonade,” Young said. “With patience, someday we might be able to make raspberry lemonade. You’ve got to put a smile on your face.”

That’s what Mark Thompson, owner of Thompson Furniture, is trying to do. Thompson Furniture’s main location is at 6525 N. Ind. 37, but it had a smaller location at 7337 N. Wayport Road.

Thompson rented the building that housed the smaller store from Young. It could no longer be used as a retail space because, while the building will still stand, the field that houses the building’s septic system will be affected by construction.

In addition to the smaller store, a warehouse near Oliver Winery and what Thompson described as a critical strip of parking had to be taken from the lot outside the main store.

“It keeps semis from docking, and eliminates parking for employees,” he said.

Like Nature’s Way, Thompson Furniture had to be reoriented. Thompson said he is in the process of purchasing more land to the north and south of the main store. The north land will be for semi trucks, and the south will be for customer parking.

Handling all those changes hasn’t been easy.

“It’s painful to do all this,” Thompson said. “You have to refocus your attention not on your business but buying real estate, working with an attorney.”

Despite the hassle, Thompson thinks the new layout will eventually be better, because there will be more parking overall and the semi trucks will be away from customers.

“It’s been a challenge, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I think in the future it will be easier to shop here.”

It’s a little harder for Pate to see that light, though.

“They’ve wanted us out monthly since about August,” he said. “Our attorney kept us here longer. Originally, we thought we would be able to stay here until the spring.”

They didn’t make it that far. Wingfield said the state purchased the property in August. He said Wayport Kennels was granted a few extensions, but the business hasn’t been paying rent on the property during that time.

Those extensions allowed Wayport Kennels to stay open through the holidays, but Pate will miss the spring break rush as he works to secure a location to build a new facility. In the meantime, he won’t be able to offer boarding or grooming services, but will continue cremation services for pets temporarily from his home.

He’s hoping to be able to reopen in April or May as Wayport Pet Resort with updated facilities, but to keep the same phone number. Like other business owners, he’s hopeful the change ultimately will be positive. In the meantime, though, he just wants to put the whole experience behind him.

“It was a grueling, painstaking process,” he said. “Nothing I would want anyone to go through.”

___

Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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