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Friday, February 10, 2017

Ind. Gov't. - Charlestown Ind. Plans to Bulldoze Low-income Neighborhood for Private Development

Elizabeth Beilman reported last fall for the Clark County News & Tribune, in a very long Sept. 26, 2016 story, that Charlestown’s Pleasant Ridge subdivision, a neighborhood of about 350 homes, has become the focus of a redevelopment project:

For years, Charlestown city officials have tried to improve the neighborhood that is declining in property values and attracting more and more renters.

While the city hasn’t yet worked out the details, one thing is certain — this time around, redevelopment of Pleasant Ridge is in the near future.

“Like any development, its time has come,” Mayor Bob Hall said. “It’s time to start looking to do something else.” * * *

Within a month or so, Charlestown City Attorney Mike Gillenwater said the redevelopment commission will likely pass a resolution declaring Pleasant Ridge “an area needing redevelopment,” which gives the body more authority to intervene.

The commission will request proposals from private developers and choose one or create its own.

If all goes as officials hope, the city could have a solid plan detailing a new neighborhood by the beginning of 2017, Hall said. * * *

John Hampton, an agent with Neace Ventures, has already bought 38 properties in the neighborhood. By the end the week, he hopes to have 100 more. * * *

His goal is to soon own all the properties in Pleasant Ridge. Demolition will begin next year, he said.

“If [city officials] are telling me it’s a blighted area, then I’m very hopeful that I’ll be able to buy the homes,” Hampton said. “That the people who are living there will say, ‘Yes, you’re right.’”

But Hampton may have a fight ahead of him. * * *

When the redevelopment commission declares Pleasant Ridge an area in need of redevelopment, it will have the power of eminent domain, or taking homes through legal means.

Today the Institute for Justice, out of Arlington, VA, has issued a news release headed: "Lawsuit Challenges Mayor’s Mission to Bulldoze Low-income Neighborhood for Private Development: Institute for Justice Partners with Charlestown, Ind. Homeowners to Fight City’s Illegal Land Grab." The lengthy release begins:
Charlestown, Ind.—Imagine being told that the home you’ve lived in for most of your life—a home you own free and clear, a home you’ve raised your family in—was going to be bulldozed by the city to make room for a new housing development. That nightmare is an unfortunate reality for dozens of homeowners in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Charlestown, Indiana. The city, led by Mayor Bob Hall, has concocted a scheme to trample the constitutional rights of its residents by forcing the sale of their homes to a private real estate developer.

Today, in the wake of the city’s unconstitutional actions, the Institute for Justice (IJ) is partnering with the neighborhood to sue the city. The motion, filed in the Clark County Circuit Court, asked the judge to issue an immediate preliminary injunction protecting the homeowners from the city’s illegal scheme and to put an end to the mayor’s mission to destroy this vibrant working-class neighborhood.

“The city’s ultimate goal is to oust the current residents, bulldoze their homes and build a fancy new subdivision for much wealthier people. This is one of the most egregious abuses of property rights the Institute has ever seen,” said IJ Senior Attorney Jeff Rowes, who represents the neighborhood. “Pleasant Ridge is a community of hardworking, blue-collar people who love their neighbors, take care of their neighborhood and want to live in peace. They deserve a government that protects their rights and leaves them be.”

Here’s how the city’s illegal scheme works. In the past, cities used eminent domain to seize homes for private development. But following the notorious Kelo Supreme Court decision, Indiana enacted strong protections to prevent eminent domain from being abused for “economic development” projects like this one. The city and a developer called Neace Ventures, however, concocted a plan to evade these protections by turning the city’s once-benign housing code into a bludgeon.

The ILB has a long list of earlier posts mentioning the "Institute for Justice," including this one from 2014 on the Charlestown project.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, February 10, 2017
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 0 opinion(s) today (and 3 NFP memorandum decision(s))

For publication opinions today (0):

NFP civil decisions today (0):

NFP criminal decisions today (3):

Tradale Jones v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Bert McQueen, III v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Darius T. Sutton v. State of Indiana (mem. dec.)

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, February 10, 2017
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions

Ind. Gov't - "Mayor says local control at stake with bill that would prohibit inclusionary zoning"

A long $$ story today in the Bloomington Herald-Times, reported by Megan Banta, begins:

Mayor John Hamilton has a request for state lawmakers trying to stop local government from using inclusionary zoning to create more affordable housing: “Please let us do our work.”

Legislators are discussing a bill that would prohibit counties, cities and towns from adopting inclusionary zoning, a policy that either requires or encourages new residential developments to make a certain percentage of units affordable for low- or moderate-income residents.

Inclusionary zoning is an affordable housing tool that no Indiana city has in place — yet. But Bloomington officials were considering adding it to the Unified Development Ordinance, which governs planning decisions.

The bill, authored by Republican state Sen. Travis Holdman of Markle, would stop that plan in its tracks.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, February 10, 2017
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Gov't. - "Pence vetoes effort to limit environmental regs"

That was the headline to a March 24, 2016 story in the Indianapolis Star, reported by Tony Cook. The story is relevant again because yesterday (see this ILB post from earlier today and this one from yesterday) the Indiana House overrode last year's veto. If the Senate also overrides it, and only a majority vote is required, HEA 1082-2016 will become law.

The ILB was among many who applauded this veto by Gov. Pence in 2016 as one of his best decisions. For why, here are some quotes from reporter Cook's 2016 story:

Gov. Mike Pence has vetoed a measure that would have prevented state environmental standards from being stricter than federal requirements.

"With this veto, Hoosiers can be assured that we will continue to have the necessary discretion and flexibility to create Indiana solutions at the state level and act in a timely way to protect our drinking water," Pence said in a statement.

Advocates of House Enrolled Act 1082, commonly known as the "no more stringent than" bill, argued that it was needed to protect businesses from overly aggressive environmental regulators. But opponents said the measure would handcuff the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and prevent the state from reacting to environmental and public safety threats. They often cited the water contamination crisis in Flint, Mich., as an example of such dangers.

The measure would have prevented IDEM from setting any standards more stringent than federal rules until the end of the next legislative session. That would give lawmakers an opportunity to review any new, stricter rule.

But Pence, a Republican who has decried new greenhouse gas rules under the Obama administration, agreed with critics that the measure went too far.

"IDEM must have the necessary flexibility to take action to protect Hoosiers. House Enrolled Act 1082 restricts IDEM’s ability to act and imposes unnecessary delay in its rulemaking process," he said. "At a time when we must do all that we can to enhance public trust in the agencies charged with protecting our environment, this bill moves in the wrong direction and will therefore receive my veto."

Environmental groups praised the move, but worried the Republican-controlled legislature could override Pence's veto. That's uncommon but not difficult in Indiana, where the General Assembly can override a veto with a simple majority.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, February 10, 2017
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government

Law - "Watching Donald Trump Try to Puzzle Out What ‘Asset Forfeiture’ Means Is Deeply Discomfiting"

That is the headline to a story in New York Magazine, authored by Jesse Singal. Read it in full here, in conjunction with this Feb.8 ILB post headed "Should Police Be Allowed to Keep Property Without a Criminal Conviction?"

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, February 10, 2017
Posted to General Law Related

Ind. Gov't. - "With Pence gone, fellow Republicans undo his work in Indiana"

This story by Tony Cook, Chelsea Schneider and Kaitlin L. Lange of the Indianapolis Star is in today's USA TODAY. Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS — Vice President Mike Pence's fellow Republicans took a number of steps Thursday to undo his policies, just weeks after the former governor left Indiana for the White House.

His handpicked successor and former lieutenant governor, Gov. Eric Holcomb, began the day with a news conference where he announced that he was canceling contract negotiations to lease state-owned cellphone towers to an Ohio company. The Pence administration had struck a tentative deal with the company and promised it would cover the cost of more than $50 million in bicentennial construction projects he initiated.

Holcomb also pardoned Keith Cooper, who was wrongfully convicted of robbery nearly 20 years ago, and declared a disaster emergency for an East Chicago neighborhood where residents have been forced to relocate because of lead contamination. * * *

Holcomb's decision to change directions on those issues are the latest indication that his approach to governing may be more pragmatic and less ideological than that of his predecessor.

Last month, Holcomb said he supported local needle exchange programs to stop the spread of disease among drug abusers. Pence opposed giving local officials that ability. Holcomb has also said he supports tax increases as an option to pay for road work, which Pence opposed last year. * * *

Even as Holcomb was announcing his executive actions in his second-floor office at the Statehouse, lawmakers in the General Assembly — where Republicans have supermajorities in both chambers — were in the process of overriding two of Pence's vetoes from last year.

Pence had vetoed a measure lawmakers passed in 2016 that would have allowed private university police departments to keep many of their records secret. House lawmakers voted 93-2 to overturn the veto.

Pence also struck down a measure last year that would have prevented state environmental regulators from establishing rules stricter than federal rules until the General Assembly had an opportunity to review them. The House voted 65-29 to override that veto. * * *

Senate leader David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said he expects his chamber to vote in favor of overriding the vetoes as well.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, February 10, 2017
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Gov't. - "Governor Holcomb declares disaster emergency at East Chicago Superfund site"

Updating a number of earlier ILB posts, Sarah Reese and Dan Carden of the NWI Times reported yesterday:

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order Thursday declaring a disaster emergency for East Chicago's USS Lead Superfund site.

The declaration provides for 30 days of enhanced state assistance for the estimated 100 residents who have yet to relocate from the lead contaminated West Calumet Housing Complex, as well as other lead-impacted citizens in the affected area.

Specifically, the state will aggressively seek $2 million in federal funding to demolish West Calumet, along with additional federal resources to remediate soil and replace lead water pipes in adjacent neighborhoods.

Holcomb also ordered state agencies to seek federal approval for more lead testing sites throughout the city, promote the development of new, affordable rental housing in East Chicago and create a one-stop website for residents to keep up with federal, state and local progress reports.

In addition, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security is empowered to obtain any services needed on an emergency basis from any level of government.

"What I want to do is make sure we get this right," Holcomb said. "Putting a 30-day shot clock on our efforts, I think, will help us not just corral, but (also) focus all of our efforts — the federal, state and local efforts — on it right now." * * *

Holcomb's predecessor, now-Vice President Mike Pence, rejected East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland's request for an emergency declaration before Pence left office one month ago.

In a letter, Pence's general counsel Mark Ahearn said the state already had provided adequate assistance.

Residents and community groups heavily criticized Pence last year for not meeting personally with those affected by the lead and arsenic contamination. His office periodically had representatives on-site.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, February 10, 2017
Posted to Environment | Indiana Government