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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 February 10, 2017 01:17 PM
Posted to Indiana Government