Judge: Pleasant Ridge homeowners unfairly targeted by city's fines

It's a moral victory for people living in the Pleasant Ridge community in Charlestown, Indiana.A judge ruled on Dec. 4, 2017 the city was unconstitutionally issuing code violation fines to homeowners who were not willing to sell their land to a private d

CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WHAS11) – It made be considered an early Christmas gift for Josh Craven and his Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association.

 

A Scott County judge put a stop to how the city of Charlestown, Indiana issues code violations to private homeowners.  In his 35 page findings of fact, the judge says the fines were an effort "to compel people to sell their properties to a private developer."

 

"We're happy now that a judge looked at it and said, 'Hey, the way these people have been treated you did it the totally wrong way,'" Craven told WHAS11.

 

The subdivision has been at the center of controversy during the last year when city council members voted for the area to be redeveloped. Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment then bought dozens of homes with the hope to demolish and rebuild.

 

Craven says some of the homeowners who didn't want to sell were then hit with code violation fines while those homes now owned by the redevelopment company were not.

 

"The landlords were forced by owning 20 properties and 300 to 400 dollars per day on each property, you're looking at 8, 9, $10,000 a day that these people would have had to pay," Craven explained.

 

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The judge noted one man sold his 14 properties to the redevelopment company while racking up $5,600 in daily fines.  The fines have accumulated for more than year while the homes haven't been demolished.  The judge says the redevelopment company should be on the hook for at least two million dollars - for which it has paid none.

 

"There have been 100 or so families move. All of them have moved and had places to go," Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall told residents during Monday's city council meeting.

 

He says there have been no evictions and in some cases, developer John Neace allowed people to stay without paying rent.  Hall says he knows there are frustrations about the condition of vacant properties, but promises changes within a year.

 

"It will be improved. It will be better. You'll see houses gone and all that.  This is a process folks.  This isn't just an event," he said.

 

To view the judge's full preliminary injunction, see below

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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