Residents of Pleasant Ridge, a Charlestown, Indiana neighborhood, filed a lawsuit against the city of Charlestown alleging violations of eminent domain laws. Eminent domain is the right of a government to take property from its owner for public use, so long as there is payment of fair compensation to the property owner. The lawsuit alleges the city of Charlestown is improperly involved with an entity called Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, a developer buying homes and lots from Pleasant Ridge residents. The lawsuit also alleges the city is excessively fining landlords for violations of property maintenance code to pressure them to sell to the developer. The city denies both allegations.
Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment has offered to buy the property of many residents but tells them it can only pay $10,000 for each lot. The offer was not based on any appraisals, as many homes appraise for three times as much, but the developers say if land is too expensive it’s difficult to redevelop. Indiana law requires owners to be paid at least fair market value when property is taken through eminent domain – the suit alleges eminent domain is occurring since the city has a business relationship with the redevelopment company. Residents fear that with many selling to the redevelopment company only a few property owners will remain and, at that point, the city has a better chance of using eminent domain to take the remaining properties.