4th Street parking garage eminent domain case gets two initial rulings: Hearing delayed

In the eminent domain case that the city of Bloomington is pursuing to acquire more land to build a replacement parking structure on 4th Street, the court issued two preliminary rulings on Tuesday.

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The view looking north along Walnut Street at 3rd Street. The 222 S. Walnut building, subject of the city of Bloomington’s eminent domain acquisition effort is in the foreground. The now closed parking structure stands north of it. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

One ruling extended the time for objections from landowner Juan Carlos Carrasquel, whose building at 222 S. Walnut is the focus of the city’s acquisition efforts. The original deadline for filing objections, 30 days after the city’s papers were submitted in mid-June, would have fallen on July 13, a Saturday. That made the effective deadline this Monday, July 15.

The court’s order, dated July 16, extended the deadline for objections to Aug. 12. That means a show cause hearing originally scheduled for next Monday (July 22) won’t be held that day.

In a separate order issued Tuesday, Monroe Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Cure ruled that the city of Bloomington had to respond to the landowner’s questions and requests for documents by Aug. 5.

Not included among online court documents by late afternoon Tuesday was any response to the landowner’s motion for a change of venue.

At least some objections from the landowner were already filed Monday this week, the same day as the original deadline. The objections—filed by attorney Eric Rochford, with Cohen & Malad out of Indianapolis—are five in number, and summarized here in terms of the landowner’s contentions:

  • Objection 1: The project is not only for a public use, because it includes a “commercial shopping center.”
  • Objection 2: The complaint is defective because it doesn’t describe the proposed “commercial shopping center,” which is a non-public use.
  • Objection 3: The complaint is defective because it’s based on a resolution approved by the city’s Board of Public works at its April 30, 2019 meeting—but the resolution was not on the posted meeting agenda, which makes it void under Indiana law. (The resolution found that the city’s planned replacement parking garage served a public purpose.)
  • Objection 4: The complaint doesn’t name Monroe County as defendant, when the county should be named, because of the interest it has in the taxes it might be owed.
  • Objection 5: The city is requesting a use of the land, to construct a “commercial shopping center,” to which use it’s not entitled.

Adding to the legal friction is the city’s decision to go ahead and move forward seeking conditional site plan approval from the city’s Plan Commission. The proposal was heard on July 8, but no decision was made by the commission at that meeting.

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Juan Carlos Carrasquel, whose building at 222 S. Walnut is the target of a City of Bloomington eminent domain action, addresses Bloomington’s plan commission on July 8, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The lack of a decision was in part due to concern expressed by plan commissioners about their legal authority to act on the site plan, when one of the landowners, namely Carrasquel, had not given consent.

Consent is required from the landowner if the filer of the site plan does not themselves own the land.

The objections filed so far with the court don’t include the legal point raised at the city plan commission’s July 8 meeting. Still, the owner-consent-site-plan issue is part of the background recited in the objections:

Condemnor [city of Bloomington] has unlawfully attempted to gain site plan approval from the City of Bloomington Plan Commission. Condemnor, although it is not remotely close to owning or having title to the subject property, moved forward with its application without the signed, written consent of Landowner, in violation of Condemnor’s own Unified Development Ordinance.

A new show-cause hearing was not set in Tuesday’s court-ordered extension. Given the extension for objections until Aug. 12, it does not appear the City Plan Commission will have much greater clarity on the status of the eminent domain action, when it meets that same day to consider the city’s parking garage site plan.

Court filings in the case can be retrieved from the state’s mycase.IN.gov online system using the case number: 53C01-1906-PL-001293.

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