Final papers filed in 4th Street parking garage eminent domain case, wait on ruling begins

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On Saturday (Oct. 26) morning, heavy rain in Bloomington left a puddle in the north lane of 3rd Street at the corner of Walnut and 3rd. In the foreground is the building that’s the target of Bloomington’s eminent domain action. In the background is the partially demolished 4th Street parking garage. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Friday, the deadline set by the judge in Bloomington’s pending eminent domain case was met by both sides in the case, as both Bloomington and 222 Hats LLC filed their proposed orders by the end of the day.

Bloomington wants to buy the property at the south end of the block between 4th and 3rd streets along Walnut, so that the replacement parking structure can have a footprint that extends the length of the block. Owner Juan Carlos Carrasquel does not want to sell. The offer made, before Bloomington started the eminent domain legal proceedings, was $587,500.

Bloomington wants the court to order that “The Plaintiff, City of Bloomington, shall be and is hereby entitled by law to condemn the real estate located at 222 S. Walnut Street.”

Juan Carlos Carrasquel, owner of the property where he operates, wants the court to order that “The Objections to Plaintiff’s [Bloomington’s] Complaint for Appropriation of Real Estate, filed by Defendant, 222 Hats, LLC, are SUSTAINED, and Plaintiff’s [Bloomington’s] Complaint is hereby DISMISSED.”

The Friday deadline was set by Holly Harvey, judge in the case, after oral arguments were heard on Oct. 7. The other deadline she set, for 222 Hats to file a written response to Bloomington’s previously filed memorandum by Oct. 18, was also met.

The central legal question in the case turns on the definition of “public use” and whether Bloomington’s intended use for the property that it wants to take—a parking garage with ground-floor commercial space—qualifies as pubic use.

Bloomington contends that the commercial space is only incidental to the intended principal use of the property, which will be a parking facility. 222 Hats contends that the commercial space, as one of the requirements made by the city council for its approval of project’s funding, is vital to the project.

Those arguments are covered in more detail in previous Beacon coverage.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Given a fleeting mention in the final papers filed by 222 Hats is a U.S. Supreme Court case that makes for a tenuous connection between Bloomington’s eminent domain case and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.

Meghan Markle starred in the legal drama, “Suits,” a televisions series that aired between 2011 and September 2019. In a Season 3 episode, “I want you to want me,” lawyers Louis Litt and Mike Ross litigate a case to prevent the taking of a property through eminent domain. The property is home to Peter’s Steakhouse, where Litt enjoys dining.

The U.S. Supreme Court precedent that Litt and Ross run up against is Kelo v. City of New London, which held that the general public benefit from economic growth was enough to justify private redevelopment plans as a permissible “public use” under the U.S. Constitution’s takings clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Following the Kelo case, which was decided in 2005, some states passed laws that set forth explicitly what a “public benefit” is for the purposes of eminent domain—as a kind of legislative constraint on the Kelo interpretation. Indiana was one of them, enacting IC 32-24-4.5 in 2006.

In the 222 Hats filings, including the proposed order, Kelo is cited as one counter to one of Bloomington’s arguments for its proposed taking, which is based on a case called Hawley v. South Bend Dept. of Redevelopment (1978). That decision was effectively undone by the post-Kelo IC 32-24-4.5 from 2006, according to 222 Hats.

In the television drama, Ross had the key insight while he and Litt were enjoying a mud bath. What won the day for Litt and Ross was the idea that the value of the property was actually much higher than previously thought. They argued the value of the property, under some new zoning, was $100 million. That was enough to ward off the proposed taking.

The actual amount that Bloomington has to pay for the 222 Hats property could go through a statutory process that includes the appointment of three appraisers—if the court rules in Bloomington’s favor.

Court filings in the case can be retrieved from the state’s online system using the case number 53C06-1906-PL-001293.

Here’s a link to The Beacon’s previous coverage of the eminent domain action.

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Scene from Season 3 of “Suits” when Louis Litt (left) and Mike Ross litigate an eminent domain case involving a U.S. Supreme Court precedent that’s also cited in Bloomington’s current litigation.