Mr. King’s comment that “Cities don’t erase their geographies or their histories by force of official will …” ["Point Austin: The Mayor's Tightrope
," News, March 31] hit especially close to home for me, literally. Unfortunately, and tragically, he’s wrong. That’s exactly what’s going on in my hometown of Charlestown, Ind.
In an ingenious scheme that the Institute for Justice has referred to as “eminent domain in disguise,” the mayor of Charlestown, working with a private developer, is using code enforcement to literally fine people out of their homes in the low-income neighborhood of Pleasant Ridge so the area can be “redeveloped” with more expensive homes.
Building inspectors have selectively targeted Pleasant Ridge homeowners and cited them for multiple code violations, some with fines as high as $50 per day. When homeowner(s) can’t pay the fines, they’re forced to sell their home to the developer.
The Institute for Justice has filed a lawsuit against the city on behalf of dozens of property owners in the neighborhood. And on March 30, Ms. Tina Barnes, a city councilwoman and Pleasant Ridge resident, testified in front of a congressional committee meeting to discuss the Private Property Rights Protection Act, which aims to protect property owners' rights.
Ms. Barnes testified on behalf of the more than 300 residents of Pleasant Ridge, many of whom are retirees and people with limited incomes who will have no place to go when they lose their homes. Sadly, many people have already been forced out of their homes and the neighborhood is already said to resemble a ghost town.
It’s a case we should all take note of. If the mayor of Charlestown succeeds, it won’t be long before other cities use selective enforcement of municipal codes to forcibly acquire personal property from their citizens.