Bloomington “assessing all options” after eminent domain ruling, landowner’s legal fees a $64K question

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The view to the northwest from the corner of Walnut and 3rd Streets of the 222 S. Walnut building, which houses owner Juan Carlos Carrasquel’s real estate business. Jan. 29, 2020 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

In her ruling on Tuesday, Monroe County circuit court judge Holly Harvey denied Bloomington’s request to have a second try at acquiring the 222 Hats property on S. Walnut Street to build a replacement parking garage.

According to a statement issued Wednesday afternoon Bloomington is “assessing all options before us and hope to move forward with a new, efficient, green public garage.”

Those options could include appealing the case in court. But an appeal would probably mean an additional year or more delay in replacing the 352 parking spaces provided by the old garage.

The garage was closed a little more than a year ago, because it was failing structurally. Demolition was completed in late 2019. The construction phase of a replacement garage is estimated to take about a year, maybe a little less.

Bloomington’s deputy mayor, Mick Renneisen, told The Square Beacon on Wednesday afternoon that the city is still keeping all legal options open. But the administration has told the architect’s team to start working on a design that’s confined to the same footprint as the old garage, he said. Renneisen put it this way: “We have to build on what we do own.”

Wednesday’s written statement by the city opens with expression of disappointment that includes a criticism of the judge’s ruling in the case: “We are extremely disappointed that a local court has ruled in an eminent domain action that a public garage does not constitute a public purpose.”

It’s a reference to the issue on which Monroe County circuit judge Holly Harvey ruled on Tuesday: Could Bloomington amend its original eminent domain case, which Harvey rejected in December, to make its proposed parking structure serve a 100-percent public use? No, Harvey said.

Harvey ruled Tuesday that the eminent domain case could not be amended in the way that Bloomington wanted, because to do so would not “conform to the evidence previously presented to the Court.” That evidence could have involved either the city’s ability to get the necessary plan commission approvals or requirements the landowner’s attorneys contended were place on the funding of the proposed replacement parking structure.

The basic idea was to build the replacement parking garage on a larger footprint than the one where the now-demolished 352-space garage once stood, by including the 222 S. Walnut property. To do that would have required acquisition of the land, which Bloomington pursued through eminent domain.

The initial eminent domain case pursued by Bloomington was for a six-story parking garage design that would have included around 11,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, in addition to the 510 public parking spaces. It was the commercial space that caused Harvey to conclude last year that the project did not meet the required public use for eminent domain takings.

Bloomington wanted to reopen the same eminent domain case, using a 100-percent public design, but Harvey ruled the complaint couldn’t be amended in the way Bloomington wanted.

The 222 S. Walnut building houses owner Juan Carlos Carrasquel’s real estate business.

Also on Wednesday, Carrasquel’s attorneys filed their request with the court to recover their fees from the city.

Eric Rochford, with Cohen & Malad out of Indianapolis filed documents showing a total of $42,118.06. Local Bloomington attorney David Ferguson, with Ferguson Law filed documents showing $22,848.25. In round numbers that’s a total of $64,966. [Motion for fees] [Exhibit A] [Exhibit B]

Allowable costs will be subject to a ruling by Harvey.

In addition to city legal staff, outside counsel Bose McKinney & Evans also worked on the case. for the city. City online financial records show that through the end of 2019, Bose was paid four invoices ($12,055.03, $5,399.50, $6,977.00 and $89.00) for a total of $24,520.53.

For all Beacon coverage of the eminent domain lawsuit see: City of Bloomington v. 222 Hats.

One thought on “Bloomington “assessing all options” after eminent domain ruling, landowner’s legal fees a $64K question

  1. “We are extremely disappointed that a local court has ruled in an eminent domain action that a public garage does not constitute a public purpose.”

    Wow. Clearly that was not the ruling. The ruling was that a combo retail space/parking garage is not a public purpose. Neither is the fact that the judge denied the city’s lame attempt to change the facts of the case a ruling that a parking garage is not a public purpose.

    Which is worse, a) the administration does not understand the ruling or b) it does understand it and is dissembling? Bodes ill either way…

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