Archive: Charlestown, Indiana and eminent domain

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Archived posts from Neighbors at War blog (Ward Lucas)


Indiana Residents Fighting Eminent Domain for Private Development

Originally posted on

October 31, 2014, guest blog by Deborah Goonan

I follow Institute for Justice on social media. See the link below for their recent press release about the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood of Charlestown, Indiana. This is yet another case where the city seeks to declare several city blocks “blighted” and to use state grant money to purchase 350+ homes for the paltry sum of $6000 each.

According to a June television report (link below), which includes interviews with Pleasant Ridge residents and Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall, early plans for development are to create a mixed use neighborhood consisting of duplexes, single family homes and affordable housing for seniors. In other words, probably another HOA, this one subsidized by tax dollars.

In June, Hall was quoted as saying that owners would not be “low-balled” on prices offered for their properties. At that time, Hall said owners would only be offered up to $15,000 from grant funds, and developers would have to contribute the rest toward market value. So the proposed offer price has already dropped by $9,000 in just 5 months, with no mention of Developer contribution.

The bottom line is that private developers want the land, so they can build new properties. The Mayor wants to collect higher tax revenues. Instead of dealing with individual properties that are in need of being condemned or demolished, the plan is to raze the entire neighborhood and displace hundreds of residents. Once again, the Supreme Court’s twisted definition of “public use” comes back to haunt American citizens. Fortunately, Indiana’s laws stipulate that eminent domain cannot be used for private development.

I find the following statement from the Mayor’s office particularly interesting,

“This area was declared blighted in 2002 in connection with a revitalization grant received then. The housing in this area was temporary housing bought by the army to house workers at the ammunition plant in 1940,” the mayor’s spokeswoman, Geneva Adams, said. “They were not meant to be permanent housing. The decline of these structures is evident as you drive through the area.”

Has Ms. Adams taken a close look at the construction quality of many modern homes? I would be willing to bet that the majority of them will not stand the test of time as well as the Army’s temporary housing that is now 74 years old.

(link to Institute for Justice news release)

(WLKY-News video of Pleasant Ridge and Charlestown Mayor, June 2014)

(WDRB coverage from earlier this year)


David Beats Goliath: Eminent Domain Land Grab Squashed!

Originally posted on

December 19, 2014
guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Here’s more positive news for homeowners, just in time for the holiday season.

Residents of homes in Pleasant Ridge, Charlestown, Indiana, have good reason to celebrate this year. They fought City Hall, and won! A few months ago I blogged about the Mayor of Charlestown declaring the modest neighborhood of 345 homes “blighted” and planning to sell the land to a private developer. That would have meant all the existing homes would be razed to make way for new development of multifamily homes.

Institute for Justice has been working with citizens in a grass roots campaign to defeat the planned sale. It turns out that Indiana was one state that amended its eminent domain laws in 2006, in response to the well-known Kelo v. City of New London “Little Pink House” legal case. Indiana’s law now states that land cannot be taken and handed over to a private developer.

What do we take away from this story, combined with the recent news of the NJ’s Supreme Court’s decision to uphold free speech in common interest communities – a huge victory for HOA homeowners?

Grass roots pressure works, when properly organized. Our State Constitutions matter! States can strengthen their own Constitutional laws to prevent Developers and Real Estate corporate interests from exploiting loopholes and running roughshod over the interests of Ordinary Citizens. In both of these cases, it was legal advocacy – not political advocacy – that resulted in justice being served.

Local politicians in Charlestown fell in line when public pressure reached critical mass, with the help and guidance of advocacy group IJ, possessing legal clout and credibility to get the job done.

A tenacious retired prosecutor was determined to defend his rights. The ACLU in New Jersey stepped up to the plate, and submitted an Amicus Brief that blew CAI’s legal arguments out of the water.

Despite all of the political polarity we have in our country these days, note that positive changes are happening with bipartisan advocacy efforts – the “Conservative” Institute for Justice, and the “Liberal” ACLU.

When concerned Americans unite against injustice, in ways that are constructive, good things happen!

What are your thoughts?

(link to IJ news release: Largest Eminent Domain Land Grab Defeated)


Stealing Homes In Indiana

Originally posted on April 13, 2015
guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Last year, residents of Charlestown, Indiana, thwarted an eminent domain attempt initiated by Mayor Bob Hall to allow developers to buy out, raze, and redevelop their entire Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. With pro bono assistance from Institute for Justice, and a well-organized effort, residents were able to put an end to those plans, and keep their homes.

Pleasant Ridge is still in need of improvement, however, and owners want to work with the Mayor on alternative plans to reduce crime and clean up problem properties. Therefore, several neighborhood leaders have proposed establishing a steering committee, to work with the Mayor’s office on revitalizing their Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. Mayor Hall has been asked to serve on the Board of this steering committee, along with one other representative from his staff.

But Mayor Hall has reservations about working with the Neighborhood Association.

Check out this statement made by the Mayor:

“Hall said Wednesday that the neighborhood association and the steering committee represent too few residents of the neighborhood.

“They are more of a special-interest group than they are a homeowners association,” Hall said of the neighborhood association. “They only represent less than 15 percent of the property owners in Pleasant Ridge. A real homeowner’s association will represent 100 percent of the properties in a subdivision.”

Hall said he has made efforts to revitalize the neighborhood since 2000, and it’s important to him that the area improves.

“I am not the mayor of the minority of Pleasant Ridge, I am the mayor of the whole city,” he said. “I am not going to be involved in a committee that has a very narrow focus and is only representing a very small interest.”

Recall from my previous blogs that the Mayor’s plans for redevelopment, though never solidified, included multifamily structures and mixed use development. In other words: establishment of Homeowners’ Associations. Apparently, Hall thinks mandatory membership HOAs would better represent owners’ interests than a voluntary membership resident-supported Neighborhood Association. Where on earth did he get that idea?

Apparently someone has been drinking the Kool-Aid, courtesy of HOA Industry special interest groups representing Community Associations and Developers.

Obviously, Mr. Hall hasn’t got a clue about the realities of HOAs! Although 100% of owners are required to be members, that does not mean that the HOA actually “represents 100 percent of the properties in a subdivision!” Note the use of the word “properties” with regard to representation — not “homeowners” or “people.”

Ask any minority property owner in an HOA if his or her interests are represented, or if those interests are merely outnumbered by majority stakeholders.

And as for having a “very narrow focus” and “only representing a very small interest,” — well, that’s the norm for HOAs. And the people of Pleasant Ridge weren’t very happy about the Mayor’s previous attempts to align himself with the narrow interests of the developer, who, along with the Mayor, wanted to get his hands on grant money.

So who is representing the interests of the homeowners in Pleasant Ridge at this point? At the last City Council meeting, neighborhood association representative Jason Patrone reportedly seemed to have the support of neighbors in attendance.

Let’s see how this one plays out.

(link to Charlestown News and Tribune)

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