Decision on eminent domain in Charlestown, Ind. put off until th - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Decision on eminent domain in Charlestown, Ind. put off until the fall

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CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WDRB) -- Some Charlestown residents could still lose their homes to eminent domain, but any decision has been put off until the fall. Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall believes the area called Pleasant Ridge is blighted.

Some buildings in the area date back to World War II and the sudden building boom associated with the startup of the then-Charlestown Army Ammunition Plant.. Some buildings have been kept up, others have not.

"We've had developers who've said they'd love to do the project, and they would be more than fair with homeowners and all that, but all we have at this point is their word," Hall said.

Hall told the city council Monday night that Charlestown has asked the state of Indiana for what's called "blight elimination" money.

If the state approves, the money would help the city buy the homes and tear them down for new development.

"We asked them if there would be a second round, and they said yes, it would be in the November, December range," Hall explained.

That's a deadline about four months longer that what Hall told residents last month. He said the city submitted an application of 17,000 pages in 12 boxes in mid-June.

Opposing residents have enlisted the help -- for free -- of a property rights law firm from Arlington, Virginia.

"It seems the city wants to get around eminent domain laws," said Melinda Haring, activism manager for Institute for Justice.

"I do not think we are prolonging the inevitable," said Josh Craven, a resident and organizer of the Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association.

Charlestown area resident Marilyn Lyle said, "It's like a blacklist. And it's a negative way to make your community grow. We need to think about others."

"There are so many great people left up there," Charlestown resident Sheila Day said.

Jimmy Atcher of Charlestown told the city council he grew up in Pleasant Ridge, and that he supports the mayor.

"I think that sometimes you have to amputate. And unfortunately that's what needs to be done," said Atcher. Sign-holding opponents in the standing room only crowd at city hall booed his comments.

A number of speakers to the city council referred to Pleasant Ridge as "the projects." The area contains rental properties and some property owners accept Section 8 vouchers, neighbors said. 

Some homeowners said their property tax assessments received this spring were lower than in previous years. That led to speculation the mayor and other officials were conspiring to bring lower appraisals should the city want to take their homes. The assessments of the homes took place last August, Hall said, before the May date the city first learned of the state's blight elimination program. 

Pleasant Ridge residents formed their neighborhood association in the last month.

They meet with Haring of the Institute for Justice at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the "karate building" on Halcyon Road.

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