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

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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”

New hearing date for Bloomington’s eminent domain action: Oct. 7

As expected, a mid-September date that had been set for a hearing in Bloomington’s eminent domain lawsuit has been cancelled in favor of a later one.

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Looking north along Walnut Street at the 3rd Street intersection, Thursday morning, the parking structure was being prepped for demolition to start Sept. 3.  (Aug. 29, 2019) (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The case involves the City of Bloomington’s attempt to take the 222 Hats building at the south end of the block between 3rd and 4th streets along Walnut Street, so it can add the land to the footprint of a replacement parking structure.

The hearing before Judge Holly Harvey is now scheduled for Oct. 7 at 9 a.m.  It’s set for three hours, which is longer than the 30-minutes specified in the order that set the previous hearing.

The reason for the rescheduling of the hearing involved coordination the schedules of the lawyers on both sides. Continue reading “New hearing date for Bloomington’s eminent domain action: Oct. 7”

Show cause hearing date set in Bloomington eminent domain case: Sept. 12 (Updated: Change of date likely)

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Shown is an aerial view of the 4th Street parking structure looking east.  From the Monroe County GIS system’s Pictometry tool, vintage 2017.

Sept. 12 is the date now set for the show cause hearing in Bloomington’s current eminent domain litigation. The case involves the City of Bloomington’s attempt to take the 222 Hats building at the south end of the block between 3rd and 4th streets along Walnut Street, so it can add the land to the footprint of a replacement parking structure.

The re-scheduled hearing is scheduled to take place in front of Judge Holly Harvey at 10 a.m. on Sept. 12 in the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at 301 N. College Avenue. [Update: City of Bloomington’s legal department told the Beacon Thursday that conflicts on both sides have led to an effort to reschedule that hearing. It will most likely be scheduled for a later, not earlier date.]

The order issued by Harvey sets a half hour as the timeframe. The parties are ordered to appear in court “…allowing 30 minutes, to show cause, if any, they have why the property sought to be acquired in the Complaint should not be acquired.”

Legal skirmishing led to cancellation of a show cause hearing initially scheduled for July 22.

The replacement parking structure site plan that has been developed by the City of Bloomington is for a six-story garage with 510 parking spaces and roughly 11,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor.
Continue reading “Show cause hearing date set in Bloomington eminent domain case: Sept. 12 (Updated: Change of date likely)”

Amended objections now filed in Bloomington’s effort to take 222 Hats property to build replacement parking garage

On Friday, Aug. 16, the landowner filed an amended version of objections with the Monroe Circuit Court, in an attempt to prevent the City of Bloomington from acquiring the 222 Hats property at the south end of the block of Walnut Street between 4th and 3rd streets.

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Image from the Monroe County GIS system, Pictometry tool. Vintage is 2017.

The City of Bloomington wants to take the  property through an eminent domain process so that it can extend the footprint of its planned replacement parking structure to cover the full length of the block from 4th to 3rd streets.

A month earlier, an initial version of the objections was filed, because it was not clear at the time if the court was going to grant a motion for an extension of the deadline. The court did grant the extension.

A review by The Beacon of both documents revealed a few differences between the first and second versions. A new paragraph was added on the topic of the definition of “public use.” The concept of “public use” is key, because property taken through eminent domain is supposed to be for a public use. The first objection filed by the landowner argues that the taking would not be for a public use, because of the ground floor retail space that is planned for the replacement parking garage.

Another  amendment to the document was stylistic—one sentence was edited to conform with Mark Twain’s legendary advice, “If you see an adverb, kill it.”

None of the changes altered of the number or kind of objections that were already filed. Continue reading “Amended objections now filed in Bloomington’s effort to take 222 Hats property to build replacement parking garage”

Landowner in Bloomington eminent domain lawsuit: If City gets 3 more days, I’d like 3 more days

The City of Bloomington is prepping to knock down the Fourth Street parking garage starting Sept. 3.

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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)

But the demolition won’t start from south to north, which is one of the scenarios that bidders for the work were asked to contemplate.

That’s because legal proceedings in the city’s eminent domain action continue to grind along.

On June 7, the City of Bloomington filed its “complaint for condemnation” with the Monroe Circuit Court, in a process it hopes will end with its acquisition of the building at 222 S. Walnut.

Juan Carlos Carrasquel is the owner of the property, which is home to his Juansells.com Realty Company. He says he is not interested in selling and has not accepted the city’s offer of $587,500.

The City wants to include the building’s footprint in the planned replacement parking garage at Fourth Street, and has submitted a proposal to the city’s plan commission based on that outcome.

This week, a couple of new filings have been made with the court, one by each side. The City of Bloomington was supposed to respond to the landowner’s discovery requests by Aug. 5—based on a court order shortening the timeframe. (Discovery is the civil process used to get evidence from the other side.) On Aug. 5, the City instead filed a motion for a three-day extension. Continue reading “Landowner in Bloomington eminent domain lawsuit: If City gets 3 more days, I’d like 3 more days”

Change of judge in Bloomington’s eminent domain lawsuit

Another preliminary ruling was issued on Monday in the eminent domain lawsuit the City of Bloomington is pursuing to acquire more land for a replacement parking structure on 4th Street.

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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)

From this point forward, Monroe County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Cure won’t be the judge in the case—because she granted the motion from landowner Juan Carlos Carrasquel for a change of venue.

Carrasquel, whose building at 222 S. Walnut is the focus of the city’s acquisition efforts, is represented by attorney Eric Rochford, with Cohen & Malad out of Indianapolis.

The motion for a change of venue—technically a change that is “taken from the judge” not the county of jurisdiction—was made under Indiana Trial Court Rule 76(B).  Under the court rule, the motion for changing the judge doesn’t require that an argument be made or a reason given. The motion can be be made “without specifically stating the ground therefor by a party or his attorney.” Continue reading “Change of judge in Bloomington’s eminent domain lawsuit”

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. Continue reading “4th Street parking garage eminent domain case gets two initial rulings: Hearing delayed”

Bloomington plan commission to take up city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan again in August amid doubts about legal authority to act on it

At Monday’s meeting—when some plan commissioners questioned their own legal authority to act on the petition—no decision was made on the city of Bloomington’s proposal to build a replacement parking structure at the 4th and Walnut site.

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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 current garage, evaluated as structurally unsound, has sat derelict since the first of the year.

The commission will take up the site plan review again at its Aug. 12 meeting, possibly with a full complement of its nine members. Two commission members did not attend Monday’s meeting, which factored into the lack of a decision.

The question of legal authority arose, because the proposed site of the replacement garage would include some property at the south end of the block that the city does not currently own—the building that is home to Juansells.com Realty Company. Continue reading “Bloomington plan commission to take up city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan again in August amid doubts about legal authority to act on it”