SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (WDRB) -- Residents of a beleaguered neighborhood in Charlestown, Indiana, went before a circuit court judge Friday and asked him to stop what they called illegal efforts to force them out of their homes.

Before the hearing, residents and supporters of Pleasant Ridge held a rally under a gazebo outside the Scott County Courthouse, the driving rain apparently not dampening their resolve.

“We've all put a lot of effort and blood, sweat and tears into our neighborhood, and we want to stay in our neighborhood,” said Josh Craven, president of the Pleasant Ridge Homeowners Association.

They are fighting Charlestown's effort to demolish Pleasant Ridge to make way for a new development.

“We're hoping that this will stop, but if doesn't, we're going to go all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Ellen Keith, who has lived in Pleasant Ridge for 40 years.

Residents claim the city is illegally fining property owners hundreds, even thousands of dollars for minor building code violations as part of an effort to force them out.

“The purpose isn't health and safety. The purpose is to force a sale,” said Jeffrey Redfern, an attorney with the non-profit Institute for Justice, which is representing the residents.

Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall, who testified during the hearing, said the city is simply trying to enforce safety codes. He said Pleasant Ridge, which was built during World War II, is substandard and a haven for crime and drugs.

“We're trying to help them get into a position where they're living in a better place but, no, we're not trying to force them out of their house,” Hall said.

Residents also accuse Hall of improperly colluding with the developer of Pleasant Ridge to drive down home prices.

“It's clear that there's a long history of cooperation, that there's been an understanding all along about how this was going to go,” Redfern said.

But Hall said the Institute for Justice is misrepresenting the city's actions.

“I think it's a bunch of hype, that's what I think," he said. "There is no collusion."

Keith said she just wants the city to leave their neighborhood alone.

“Our homes are not health hazards," she said. "They are actually nice, modest homes."

There is no indication as to when Circuit Judge David Mount might issue a ruling.

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