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Friday, March 01, 2013

Ind. Courts - "Judge could issue ruling on BSU-Hiatt dispute this month"

Remember the takings case involving Ball State and Hiatt Printing? From this Nov. 18, 2012 ILB post, headed "Should a highly respected Indiana trial judge, who was a star athlete for Ball State in the late 1970s, preside over a case involving the school?," quoting an opinion piece in the Muncie Star Press:

Last week saw the first official court hearing in Ball State University v. David and Jane Hiatt et al, the et al including directors of a trust and Chris Hiatt, operator of Hiatt Printing.

Hiatt Printing’s main office is on Wheeling north of Centennial, but a satellite office sits just off BSU’s campus on McKinley, exactly where the university envisions a $26 million hotel and immersive learning program for several majors related to travel, hospitality and food services among others.

Hiatt and family have declined to sell their property for $400,000, the last price Ball State offered. * * *

Given no sales agreement, university trustees authorized use of eminent domain condemnation through court, a controversial power government has to take property when needed to fulfill necessary government functions.

The process includes a court appointing a pair of appraisers to come up with a fair-market value for the property, which the government must pay. * * *

In large part, the hearing was for Circuit Court 1 Judge Marianne Vorhees to disclose to both sides — though nothing new to local counsel, such as Ball State’s attorneys Jim Williams and Scott Shockley of Defer-Voran — her connections to the university.

Judge Vorhess has since recused herself, as posted here. Back to the opinion piece:
The issue Hiatt’s side wants to address is “whether the taking is legitimate or not, which is central to the case,” [Hiatt's attorney Phil] Sever told the court. The defendants feel building and operating a hotel isn’t part of the educational mission of the school.

Ball State disagrees.

Arguments will focus on state law written after a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed governments to take private property from one owner and convey it to another owner if subsequent development benefits the community.

In response, several states, including Indiana, wrote new laws to prevent government confiscation for non-government use. Ball State vs. Hiatt appears to be the first to test exactly what Indiana’s law means.

Yesterday, Feb. 28, 2013, the court held a hearing on Hiatt's objection. Here are copies of the hearing briefs:Here is a story from today's Muncie Star Press reporting on yesterday's hearing. Douglas Walker's report begins:
MUNCIE — A judge could rule this month on whether Ball State University can continue its efforts to claim a campus-area property through an eminent domain lawsuit.

The university last Sept. 27 filed the suit against David, Jane and Chris Hiatt, seeking ownership of the property that now is the location of the family’s business, Hiatt Printing, at 506 N. McKinley Ave.

Court documents reflect the university — which hopes to build a $25 million hotel and conference center, also to contain some student housing, at the site — offered $400,000 for the property.

BSU officials claim they rejected a counter-offer seeking $1.25 million for the land.

An attorney for the Hiatts, Tonny Storey of Carmel, has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, contending that BSU does not have the legal standing to claim the property because its plans for the land do not constitute “public use.”

The Hiatts contend Ball State will “ultimately transfer control of all or part of the mixed-use structure to commercial tenants and a third-party management company.”

In a “pre-hearing brief” filed Thursday, BSU attorney Scott Shockley contended “Ball State will own and operate McKinley Commons and will not be transferring it to a private entity.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 1, 2013 09:08 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts