|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.
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/