Monday, July 25, 2016

Indianapolis Library Attempts to Seize Private Property Via Eminent Domain

With much of my attention focused on the national political scene, this story of eminent domain abuse by our local Indianapolis library passed under the radar.  At a June 27th meeting of the library board, members voted to allow former Councilor and library CEO Jacie Nytes the authority to use eminent domain to seize several property parcels located in the Martindale Brightwood area from an elderly window who runs a business from that address.  The taking also includes a local church.
Jackie Nytes, Indianapolis Library CEO

Readers of this blog will note that I have noted that years Republican nominee Donald Trump partnered with Atlantic City government officials to try to seize the house of an elderly widow so he could expand limo parking for his casino. After a protracted court battle, Trump failed in his effort when the court found the taking would not have been for a "public purpose."

It appears that our local library is trying to do a similar thing.  Although the issue of whether the taking would be a "public purpose" will not be in dispute, at a June 27th meetin gof the library board, members voted to give former Councilor and library CEO Jackie Nytes the authority to use eminent domain to seize several property parcels locaed in the Martindale Brightwood area from an elderly window who runs a business from that address. The taking would also include a local church.

WRTV reports:
The plan ... is to close the small library and build a new free-standing one, right across the street on a plot of land that’s owned by people who don’t plan on selling.
That includes Lum Woodard, owner and pastor of Greater King Solomon Baptist Church. He says the $60,000 he’s been offered for the land is not enough to relocate and reopen somewhere else.
“It could be devastating,” Woodard said. “We would have to close, because $60,000 wouldn’t even buy a house in this neighborhood.”blockquote>
Sheena Schmidt, who owns several buildings in the area, says construction of the library would negatively impact those businesses, cutting off a crucial alley for deliveries.
"The alley is going to cause all these people to go out of business," Schmidt said. “It’s sad. It’s unbelievable what they’re doing.”
The WRTV report notes support for the project from neighborhood organization President, Amy Harwell:
“This is stupid, plain-and-simple stupid,” Harwell said. “We shouldn’t have to take measures – eminent domain – to get this property. Most of the people who are saying it doesn’t need to be there don’t live in this community.”
Ms. Harwell might well be right - that owners of the property are "stupid" for not taking the money.  So too may be the 100 plus people who signed a petition against locating the library at the site.  But being "stupid" for not accepting an offer does not make the library's use of eminent domain right.  Absent a compelling government need, private property owners should be able to refuse to sell their property.

This use of eminent domain does not involve the building of a road a scenario in which government may not have many options in terms of where to locate the road.  A library is not required to be built at a certain location.  Here it appears that the library has many options to build on property owned by people who are actually willing to sell, without resorting toeminent domain. These options include acquiring property owned by Martin University that is being offered almost for free.  As the Martin University property is vacant there would be no need for demolition.

Nytes and the library board apparently want the "perfect" property to build the new facility and if property owners won't cooperate, they're apparently willing to seize their land by force, backed by government, if necessary

To proceed with eminent domain, the library will have to get approval from the Council.  I will update this story as it develops/


Nicolas Martin said...

I should think it uncommon for an eminent domain grab to be turned down by local politicians, or by a court. I've yet to encounter a neighborhood association that wasn't controlled by authoritarian busybodies.

Anonymous said...

Members of Brightwood Martingale should consider filing for eminent domain of Nytes owned property or the Justice David Souter maneuver, but make it investment rather than donation funded...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this, Mr. Ogden. The same news reports caught my eye as well however I get the feeling there's a lot more to this story that was missed by reporters. I'm glad it at least made the news though. as noted a library location should have a lot of options so why the focus on this one location. Maybe someone well connected has an interest in property next door to the proposed location and is seeking to replace some neighbors.

LamLawIndy said...

This is disappointing. So far, Jackie Nytes has done a fine job as CEO. It's too bad that Jackie & the Board are using govt fiat to force a landowner to sell.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for reporting on this abuse of power by our local city officials. The library's actions send a "Buyer Beware" signal to any prospective business interested in economic development projects where they are needed most-in hurting, blighted areas. Way to provide yet another reason for business investors to bypass Marion County for surrounding donut counties. All property owners should be outraged by the library's action and contact all city councilors asking them to vote no on this property seizure. Will the Chamber of Commerce and MIBOR speak up in defense of these property owners?

Leon Dixon said... A related abuse upon which you have long railed seems to have overcome "standing" issues. The Institute for Justice really should get in touch with you. You could save them (and us) a ton of time and money....a point I have made with them.

Anonymous said...

What a surprise that local Democrat hack Jackie Nytes, who owes her library position to the largess of the thankfully out of office fake Republican Greg Ballard, desires to use the law against "the little people" for her building dreams.

Like all the other awful deals the Democrats and the useless "R's" on the Council allowed to stand under Greg Ballard, we see more corruption and more use of the system against the "little people" dishonest politicos proclaim to be "fighting" for.

what a joke all these people are

Anonymous said...

The empty property across the street at Martin University is the amazing part of the story... The city could build a nice city park with basketball courts, a larger library, bigger parking lot, for half the amount, due to low property acquisition costs, low building demolition costs, and other property cleanup costs. Kids would go play basketball at the basketball courts, but then would be naturally drawn into the library to learn. That is the real loss: They could do so much more for community at the Martin University property, and they wouldn't have to forcibly take property from the many people in the community the there.