Bloomington’s unsuccessful eminent domain action to expand parking garage: $100K in total legal fees

cropped 2020-07-10 4th Street Garage Consruction IMG_4781
The site of the future replacement of the 4th Street parking garage on July 10, 2020. This view is to the northwest from the corner of 3rd and Walnut Streets. The JuanSells.com real estate building, which Bloomington tried unsuccessfully to acquire through eminent domain, stands in the left of the frame. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

About four months ago, in the third week of March, Bloomington withdrew its appeal of a Monroe Circuit court ruling that went against the city in its effort to acquire some additional land.

The city wanted to use the real estate to expand the footprint of a replacement parking garage at 4th and Walnut streets. The city was seeking to use the principle of eminent domain to force the landowner to sell his building and land at a fair price as defined under the law.

Based on a final order filed by the judge on Thursday, Bloomington will be paying $62,500 in legal fees for Juan Carlos Carasquel, owner of the 222 S. Walnut building. [Updated July 14, 2020. In an amended filing on July 13, the amount was adjusted downward by $250 to $62,250.]

Based on Bloomington’s online financial records, the city has paid its outside counsel on the case, Bose, McKinney & Evans, a total of $39,367.50 since the litigation started.

That makes for a total of $101,868 in legal fees paid by the city for the case, which it initiated over a year ago. Continue reading “Bloomington’s unsuccessful eminent domain action to expand parking garage: $100K in total legal fees”

Zoning board doesn’t yield to COVID-19, grants driveway variances for 4th Street parking garage; Bloomington city council cancels work session

On Thursday night in Bloomington, as the COVID-19 pandemic stalled a lot of public business, some of the People’s work was still getting done.

At the regular meeting of the city’s board of zoning appeals (BZA), a replacement garage at 4th and Walnut streets in downtown got two required variances.

The BZA’s Thursday action clears the way for construction of the project, which is hoped to start sometime around August this year, and be complete in August of 2021.

The BZA’s approval followed the project’s site plan approval by the city’s plan commission almost two weeks ago. Of the 537 spaces to be constructed in the new garage, 352 count as replacements for the spaces that were previously housed in the 4th Street structure, which was closed at the end of 2018 due to structural issues. Continue reading “Zoning board doesn’t yield to COVID-19, grants driveway variances for 4th Street parking garage; Bloomington city council cancels work session”

Bloomington plan commission OKs 4th Street replacement parking garage, target completion date now August 2021

skinny artwork for 4th Street download
Rendering of the integrated art project for the 4th Street parking garage that has been designed by Project ONE Studio. The quilted grids are to be fabricated out of  painted aluminum.

By August 2021, motorists in downtown Bloomington could have 537 more parking spaces to choose from.

On Monday night, the city’s plan commission approved a design for a new garage at the same site, on the same footprint, where the old 4th Street parking garage stood, until it was demolished in late 2019. Continue reading “Bloomington plan commission OKs 4th Street replacement parking garage, target completion date now August 2021”

Revised 4th Street garage design goes to Bloomington plan commission as parking gets more scrutiny in community

After an unsuccessful attempt to use eminent domain to acquire land south of the now-demolished 4th Street parking structure, the city of Bloomington has now unveiled a design for the replacement garage. The new design is confined to the footprint of the old 352-space garage.

On Monday, March 9, the city’s plan commission will consider the city’s proposal for a new seven-story parking garage with 537 parking spaces. That’s one story taller than the previous design presented last July, which had a larger footprint. Continue reading “Revised 4th Street garage design goes to Bloomington plan commission as parking gets more scrutiny in community”

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

cropped 2020-01-29 juansells.com IMG_6549
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.”
Continue reading “Bloomington “assessing all options” after eminent domain ruling, landowner’s legal fees a $64K question”

Objection filed to Bloomington’s request to try again in effort to take 222 Hats building for parking garage

masked objection Screen Shot 2020-01-14 at 7.54.00 AM

Last Friday, attorneys for Juan Carlos Carrasquel, owner of the JuanSells.com building, filed an objection to Bloomington’s effort to have another try at acquiring the building from Carrasquel against the landowner’s wishes. Continue reading “Objection filed to Bloomington’s request to try again in effort to take 222 Hats building for parking garage”

Analysis: After lower court ruling against Bloomington, when does 4th Street parking garage get rebuilt?

cropped 12-25-2019 IMG_4528
Looking south on Dec. 25, 2019, from 4th Street across the empty lot where the city’s 352-space parking garage previously stood. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Christmas morning dawned bright over the now empty lot at 4th and Walnut streets where a parking garage once stood. It offered 352 spaces for people to park their cars, then go to work, shop, or take care of errands in the downtown area.

The demolition started in earnest in late September and was done by early November.

After last Friday’s court ruling, the now smoothed-over dirt lot will probably remain empty for at least a few more months.

Likely to be completed ahead of the 4th Street parking structure replacement is a new 379-space city parking garage for the Trades District. In a press release issued on Dec. 24 the city announced that preparations for construction would start this Friday. It’s scheduled to be completed about a year from now.

For the 4th Street structure, the city of Bloomington is still sorting out its options. A Monroe County circuit court judge ruled on Friday in favor of the property owner in the city’s eminent domain lawsuit. Continue reading “Analysis: After lower court ruling against Bloomington, when does 4th Street parking garage get rebuilt?”

Bloomington plan commission punts parking garage site plan to December

Bloomington’s plan commission voted at its regular meeting on Monday night to put off until December its consideration of the city’s proposed replacement parking garage at 4th and Walnut Streets

The site plan appeared on the agenda but was not indicated as continued, as it had been from August to September,  from September to October, and from October to November.

The short-handed plan commission voted Monday 5–0 for the continuance. That’s the minimum the nine-member commission needs for a quorum or for an affirmative vote. The site plan might be heard at the plan commission’s Dec. 9 meeting.

The reason for the repeated continuance on the site plan stems from the fact that the city does not own part of the land—the south end of the block between 4th and 3rd streets—on which the replacement garage is supposed to be built.

The site plan submitted by the city is for a six-story garage with 510 parking spaces and roughly 11,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. The footprint would extend for 4th Street to the south end of the block at 3rd Street. Continue reading “Bloomington plan commission punts parking garage site plan to December”

Arguments heard in court on Bloomington’s attempt to take land to replace 4th Street parking garage

cropped revised 10-06-2019 garage juan sells IMG_5938
Looking north on Walnut Street at the intersection of 3rd Street on Oct. 6, 2019. The gray building with the purple sign in the left of the frame is the JuanSells.com building that Bloomington is trying to acquire through eminent domain action. The partially demolished building to its north is the 4th Street parking garage. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Around two hours worth of arguments and testimony were heard Monday morning at a show cause hearing about Bloomington’s eminent domain action on the JuanSells.com property. It’s just south of the now already partially demolished 4th Street parking garage.

Bloomington wants the owner, Juan Carlos Carrasquel, to sell his building so that the footprint of a planned replacement parking garage can extend the full block from 4th Street down to 3rd Street. Drawn out during Monday morning’s testimony was the city’s offer to  Carrasquel of $587,500 for the building. He purchased the building for $500,000 in spring of 2018.

The central legal issue in the case is whether the planned ground-floor retail space in the garage disqualifies it from the public purpose that a taking through eminent domain requires.

No bench ruling was made by judge Holly Harvey when the hearing concluded in Monroe’s circuit court at the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.

Harvey did set a couple of deadlines. The first one is Oct. 18, for Carrasquel’s attorneys to file a reply to the memo filed last Friday by the city’s legal team. The deadline for the two sides to file a proposed set of findings and an order is Oct. 25.

Those deadlines mean a ruling might not come before Nov. 4, when the city’s plan commission is next scheduled to consider the proposed site plan for the replacement garage. The plan commission’s agenda for Monday, Oct. 7 shows the site plan as continued until Nov. 4. If there’s not a ruling by then, in the city’s favor, consideration of the site plan can be expected to be continued another month.

The site plan, which was initially heard by the city planning commission at its July 8 meeting, includes a six-story structure, with 511 parking spaces and roughly 11,800 square feet of non-garage space on the ground floor. Continue reading “Arguments heard in court on Bloomington’s attempt to take land to replace 4th Street parking garage”

Bloomington’s parking commission counts new neighborhood permit rules as initial success, mulls more policy tweaks

Policies on the temporary storage of vehicles inside Bloomington’s city limits, aka “parking,” are key to retaining residents and businesses downtown, as well as the success of cultural events downtown, like this past weekend’s Lotus Festival. Parking as a policy issue reaches into the leafy neighborhoods, outside of downtown.

Late last year and earlier this spring, business owners raised the specter of relocating out of downtown, if their employee parking would be contingent on a quarterly engineering inspection of a repaired 4th Street structure. That led to the reversal of the city council’s initial decision to repair, not rebuild, the 4th Street parking garage. Demolition of the structure started in earnest his past week.

Part of what makes Lotus Festival possible is the reservation of hundreds of parking spaces with bright orange signs marking each space, indicating when motorists are not allowed to park there. They cost $20 apiece plus $10 for administration.

Street parking in the area north of downtown roughly bounded by Walnut and Woodlawn and by 17th and 13th has, since Aug. 15, required a residential neighborhood parking permit. The newly defined Zone 6, has round-the-clock enforcement from Thursday through Sunday.

It’s the city’s parking commission that has purview over these kinds of parking issues. The commission’s meetings are open to the public, like those of all boards and commissions.

The bright orange reserved parking signs got some brief discussion at last Thursday’s meeting, as did the early feedback on Zone 6 and other neighborhood parking permit areas that had their rules tweaked starting Aug. 15. Commissioners heard enough positive feedback that the changes are considered a success.

Its meeting last Thursday was the first one  for the parking commission since June, after its regular sessions in July and August were cancelled due to lack of a quorum.

Difficulty in achieving a quorum is related to one of the topics for future discussion identified by parking commissioners on Thursday. Scott Robinson, who’s assistant director for the city’s transportation and planning department, suggested the combination of three transportation-related commissions: parking, traffic, and bicycle and pedestrian safety.

Here’s a round-up of parking commission meeting topics, other issues commissioners might be tackling, and some other parking-related talk The Beacon has heard at other public meetings. Continue reading “Bloomington’s parking commission counts new neighborhood permit rules as initial success, mulls more policy tweaks”