Redevelopment Commission 03/28/2019

City-NEws-e1455073509249The Charlestown Redevelopment Commission met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, March 28 at 9:00 AM. Following is a summary of this meeting with full audio (31:26) available at the end. 

  1. Call to Order/Pledge of Allegiance
  2. Determination of a Quorum and Roll Call: Members present were Ted Little, Pat Glotzbach, George Roberts, Eric Vaughn, and Mayor Hall. Also in attendance were Clerk Treasurer Donna Coomer and city attorney Michael Gillenwater
  3. Approval of prior meeting’s minutes, current claims, and Payroll Allowance Docket from 03/11/2019 to 03/24/2019 combined into one motion for approval.
    • Motion to approve made by Eric Vaughn
    • Seconded by George Roberts
    • No Discussion
    • Unanimous Approval
  4. Old Business
    • Renaissance Project – Jason Sams from ARC presented on the Renaissance Project
      • Mr. Sams thanked the board for the opportunity to present and said that as they’ve worked through steps they are now ready to have the board approve project plans.
      • Visual presentation showed the site rendering super-imposed on the location. The project is in two lots. Lot One is in a U shape with coffee shop and retail below with residential apartments above. Lot Two has about 4,000 sq ft in two buildings fronting Market Street and one 4,000 sq ft building behind. Lot One will have a brick veneer with some sun shades that will be on the windows on the first floor. Mr. Sams brought samples of the brick veneer and hardy siding. He said they give the look of old town but is a new material. Lot Two will have two one-story retail spaces facing Market Street.
      • Mr. Sams opened the floor for questions.
        • Gillenwater asked about the apartments. Mr. Sams said all apartments will be 2-br units.
        • Roberts asked if the parking was on the inside. Mr. Sams said parking is around the sides of the structure and the interior is a courtyard enclosed with an aluminum fence for use by the residents. Mr. Sams said the building is designed with breezeways and gates for security.
        • Little asked how many parking spaces. Mr. Sams said Lot One has 69-70 with 40 on Lot Two.
        • Little asked if the parking is designated for apartment residents. Mr. Sams said no, they do not plan to regulate where people park because market studies show that people will park where they need to park. Mr. Little was concerned about people living there not being able to find parking when competing with people visiting the commercial space. Mr. Sams said most of the commercial is on Lot Two and apartments are only on Lot One.
        • Sams addressed timing. He said he will go to the Planning and Zoning and Board of Zoning Appeals after approval today. Then he will need to start a project design and get permits. He anticipates groundbreaking in July. He said build out on Lot One will be approximately 10-11 months (depending on weather and unforeseen site conditions).
        • Mayor Hall asked if they traditionally apply for a site plan and come back for building permit at another time. Mr. Sams said he usually manages both at the same time.
      • Mayor Hall entertained a motion to approve the plan as presented
        • Motion to approve made by Ted Little
        • Seconded by George Roberts
        • No additional discussion
        • Unanimous approval
    • Additional Presentation by Mr. Sams
      • Mr. Sams said that ARC has an active development agreement with the city. Next they need to seek approval from the Board of Zoning Approval. He said he needs to extend the agreement so that he can meet these steps.
      • Mayor Hall asked Tony Jackson for a status update. Mr. Jackson said that April 8 is the next meeting.
      • Mr. Gillenwater said if they get the variances then they won’t have to deal with zoning. Mr. Sams said he wants to make sure the entitlements (final development approval and variances) are correct.
      • Mayor Hall entertained a motion for a two-week extension of the development agreement (From April 1 to April 15th). (Tony Jackson said they will need to put a 10 day notice in the paper.)
        • Motion to approve extension made by Pat Glotzbach
        • Seconded by Eric Vaughn
        • No additional discussion
        • Unanimous approval
      • Mr. Gillenwater asked about a timeline for ribbon cutting on Lot One. Mr. Sams said he would need to talk to Marketing people. Mr. Sams said it will be about 10-11 months but they’re still working on how this will be put together.
      • Mayor Hall thanked Mr. Sams for managing the project
  5. Mayor Hall Updates
    • The Board previously released six Springville Manor homes to sell to non-Pleasant Ridge residents. There are currently three under contract at over $104,000. One initial PR residents of that community, Ms. Smith, passed away about two weeks ago and that home is being transitioned. He said that people are realizing about $75,000 in equity right away. He said people are moving in with no payment, or a very low payment for those who have had to take out mortgages
    • Mayor Hall said that the federal judge released the city from two of the charges in the landlord lawsuit. He said that the landlords have resubmitted those charges. He does not think that case will be heard. He said he thinks people running for office are rooting for the landlords and he doesn’t approve of that. He said the landlords are suing for $1 million per house. He said this is a frivolous lawsuit. He said the insurance company has agreed to pay for the legal defense and they will be submitting bills for that.
    • Grant Update – He said they city received a grant for street paving and he thinks it will be 50% of our streets that can be paved with that.
    • Road Opening – Mayor Hall said they held the road opening for Coomer Way, named in honor of Clerk Treasurer Donna Coomer.
    • On April 6 at 11:00, Glendale Park will be renamed in memory of Sgt. Ben Bertram.
    • George Roberts asked when the city will get the money for the roads. Mayor Hall said any day. He said they will approve the roads at the Board of Public Works on Monday.
    • Gillenwater said that the Spider TIF of the water lines set in place now that the sale of the utility is over will also provide a source of funding. Mayor Hall said that IAW is active in the community. He said that the first Indiana American Water bill will go out in April and the subsidies from the sale will also be applied so that people will not see a rise in their bills. He said the sale and the TIF of the lines provide a large amount of funds for use by the city. He said that the city did not sell the wells and will not do so without approval of the city council.
  6.  Adjournment
    • Motion to adjourn made by Eric Vaughn
    • Seconded by George Roberts
    • Unanimous approval

Audio:

Revised Court Documents Renew Federal Lawsuit Claim Against the City

59dfc97a89a5f.imageOn Friday, March 22, the attorney for the landlords in the federal civil lawsuit against the City filed a motion to amend their complaint against the Defendants. The amended complaint states that during the process of discovery in the case, the Plaintiffs learned that the Defendants have previously abused their fining authority to force property owners to sell real estate to benefit John Neace and other private developers.

The amended complaint addresses concerns raised in last week’s order for partial dismissal by citing evidence that seeks to prove that a pattern of extortion exists, and it names the Defendants as individuals rather than as officers of the city.  

Specifically, the amended complaint alleges the following: 

  • “Sometime in or before 2010, the City began an effort to force the sale of a commercial property known as ‘Charlestown Plaza’ located at 1101 Market Street. In February 2010, Board of Public Works (“BPW”) minutes show that Mayor Hall directed the City Attorney to threaten the property owner with 2 years of retroactive fines totaling $6.1 million. According to the BPW meeting minutes of January 2, 2012, the City ultimately imposed $660,000 in fines on this property. This was done with the intent to force the sale of the property to the City’s preferred developer at the time, Jesse Ballew. In June of 2012, Mr. Ballew acquired the property via a company called C-Town Investments, LLC. The property was redeveloped, and the new owner was not required to pay any fines.” 
  • “Beginning in 2011 and continuing up to the time of the present scheme, the City is believed to have used large fines to force numerous homeowners/landowners to either sell their properties or donate them to the City. These properties, many of which ultimately wound up owned by companies controlled by John Neace and organized by John Hampton, are identified in Plaintiffs’ proposed 3rd Amended Complaint.”
  • “In 2015, the City imposed over $620,000 in fines on the owner of a mobile home community known as Catalina Estates to force the owners to sell the real estate to one of John Neace’s companies. The City and Neace succeeded in forcing out the property owners, and the former “Catalina Estates” subdivision is now a Neace-owned development called “Springville Manor.” Catalina Estates is not part of Pleasant Ridge. It was a separate neighborhood of the City, and the Defendants’ use of extortion in Catalina Estates predated the Defendants’ use of extortion in 2016 against property owners in Pleasant Ridge.” 

The amended complaint includes an affidavit from Lewis Maudlin, an attorney who represented Indyre, LLC. Mr. Maudlin attests that his client purchased property in Pleasant Ridge in 2017 and that the property had a clean title, but that immediately following the purchase the owner was contacted by city attorney Michael Gillenwater and was told that he had to either pay the city $79,000 in fines or sell the property to John Neace. Mr. Maudlin affirms that he was told he could not demolish the building or rent the building and that the only way to waive the fines was to sell but that John Neace would be allowed to continue to rent the property until its demolition and that Mr. Neace would pay no fines. 

The amended complaint uses this evidence to allege that the Defendants engaged in extortion in the past and includes evidence that they will continue to do so in the future. 

The Plaintiffs also added that the Defendants have violated the 8th amendment of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits excessive fining. 

You can review the documents here: 

Chamber of Commerce Meeting 03/21/2019

cropped-Charlestown-Chamber-Logo-2-1Mayor Bob Hall spoke at the regular meeting of the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, March 21, at 12:30 pm. Following is a summary and full audio (45:32) of the presentation:

  • Mayor Hall thanked the audience and the Chamber for the opportunity to speak. He introduced the new Charlestown logo and said that it features the word “Family” because that’s where the city’s focus is. He said that everything done is meant to help families. 
  • Overview of events in the city: 
    • Mayor Hall asked how many people had ever remodeled a house. He said that when he was first elected mayor in the year 2000 he came from a real estate background. He said that the first thing you do when you remodel a house is remove things that are obsolete and fix everything underneath. He said once you identify all those things you begin to do exterior things (drywall and trim work) to market the house. He said that has been his approach in Charlestown. He said that in 2000, everything was overgrown and they’ve uncovered and added sidewalks and cleaned/edged areas from Highway 62 to the hospital. 
    • In regard to the water system, Mayor Hall said it was not uncommon to have multiple line breaks in one day. He said they began replacing lines and broken hydrants. He said they often received as many as 20 dirty water calls per day so they went to work on that problem. 
    • He said that potholes on Highway 3 were a big problem in 2000 and he took initiative to have those repaired. 
    • In regard to the sewer plant, he said that in 2000 the plant was on an expansion ban under which they were not allowed to add new sewer lines. He pursued and received a grant to make repairs. 
    • He said that the city is now far enough along in the “remodel” process that they can begin to do things on the exterior. 
  • Five Es – Mayor Hall reintroduces his concept for five things that help a city grow
    • Enlarging Your Vision – He said that Charlestown is in the best position for growth and will be the largest city in Clark County because we have more real estate available than anyone else. He said that the city is positioned like it was in 1940 when the ammunition plant brought a growth in population. He said when the Army left there were numerous vacant properties and he has been trying to overcome the problems since then. He said the River Ridge Redevelopment is bringing changes to the area. 
      • New Police Station – expected to be completed late May or early June 
      • Updating signage in city
      • Opening of new road from County Road 403 to Clark Road in Pleasant Ridge is Saturday, March 23. Road to be named after Clerk Treasurer Donna Coomer. 
      • Working on design of a new road that will connect County Road 403 near Danbury Oaks to Highway 62 at Gate 19. 
      • Added more parks including a dog park. The goal is to get families to be more active. He said they’ve done two parks in Glendale and they’re adding three more parks in Heritage, Lakeview/Highview, and Ashley Springs. They’re in negotiations with Woodford Farms and Danbury Oaks. They will continue to look for sites and place parks until every family is within walking distance to a park. He said these parks add to the quality of life and that quality of life is a main issue for the Millennial generation. He said Millennials don’t want yards to take care of and that they want small lots with amenities nearby. 
      • Renaissance Project – Due diligence is expected by April 1. It will have apartments on the second floor with 3,000 sq ft of commercial space on the ground level in phase one. Phase two will include commercial space as well. He said these apartments will be marketed to younger people. 
      • Updated the old city maintenance garage to make it look more modern. 
      • He said the great thing about Charlestown is that we always have businesses coming and going. Discussed NIBCO’s sale to another company. 
      • School update – we’ve seen “tremendous growth” for our schools. He said when he became mayor 72% of our graduates were leaving school with no game plan for life. Now that he has created the CEEF he said that has changed to 99.4% of graduates having a plan for college, work, or military. Charlestown has a dual credit partnership with Ivy Tech that allows students to earn college credit and associates degrees while in high school. 
      • Real Estate update – Mayor Hall said that Real Estate agents are saying that sales are booming as people are moving into the area because of our schools and because of the Christmas program. 
    • Mayor Hall caught up on the Five E’s and said others that he’s covered include
      • Enhancing the City
      • Enhancing the Quality of Life
      • Economic Development and Workforce – (River Ridge) 
      • Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety 
        • He said Charlestown has always had a low major crime rate. He said every now and then there are a few break ins. He mentioned we have a Block Watch program that helps with these things. 
        • He said that the crime rate has gone down by 30% in the last two years. 
        • He said the city continues to address drug activity. Much has decreased and he said that is because of the Pleasant Ridge redevelopment. He said they will continue to develop the area if it takes 5 or 50 years.
          • He said that 65% of the properties have been torn down or are in the process of being vacated. He said that he wants to make clear that the city has never used eminent domain except for the three properties that they had to take to complete the road connecting 403 to Clark Road.
          • He said that the Institute for Justice has sued the city and that none of their claims are true, but that IJ makes money off of the videos they make about Charlestown. He said that nobody in Pleasant Ridge has become homeless in this process.
          • He said that the last election showed that people wanted the redevelopment in Pleasant Ridge because all the people who ran on that issue won.
          • He discussed the landlords selling their properties to the developer and said that the city asked them to stagger that process to manage the flow of displaced residents.
          • He addressed the two lawsuits related to Pleasant Ridge.
          • He mentioned that the historic designation received by Pleasant Ridge had no impact on the redevelopment plans.
          • He said many of the people who had moved into Pleasant Ridge before redevelopment were not from the city and they’re not in the city today and he’s ok with that because they brought problems. 
        • Water sale update – Mayor Hall said that the plan to sell began in 2016 when Indiana American Water company approached the city and offered to buy the utility. He explained that lawsuits related to the sale have been settled unless the group who opposes the sale moves it to the Supreme Court but that he does not believe that will go anywhere
    • Mayor Hall said the city is in good financial heath and that they’ve received perfect audits. He said claims made otherwise are false. 
      • He addressed TIF districts and said that although most people won’t understand how they work, they’re in place to bolster economic growth. He said that the base assessed value freezes when a TIF is enacted and that everyone who receives taxes will continue to get that same rate. He says if that number is 100,000 then they continue to receive that amount, but when it reaches 105,000 then the city collects that 5,000 in the TIF. He said TIF and economic development is going well and the city receives about $700,000 per year from that fund. 
    • The Mayor closed by saying he is “pro-Charlestown” and that the city will see significant changes and growth in the next 2-3 years. He said he enjoys knowing his neighbors and seeing friends when he’s out and wants to keep the small town feel while the city expands. He thanked the Chamber for the chance to speak. 

Full audio (45:32) here:

Charlestown Court Update: New Federal Lawsuit Filed – Partial Dismissal Order Granted in Existing Case

gavelOn Wednesday, March 13, U.S. Specialty Insurance Company filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Charlestown, the Board of Public Works, the Redevelopment Commission, all members of the city government previously named as defendants in the landlord’s lawsuit, and all named plaintiffs in that same lawsuit, as well as the named plaintiffs in the Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood lawsuit.

As the City’s insurer, U.S. Specialty has asked the court to declare that the city’s fining activities in Pleasant Ridge fall outside their contract with the city and to declare that they are not required to pay any monetary judgments that any other court might impose on the city as these cases move toward their conclusions. The insurance company bases their argument on a number of facts, including that their contract excludes acts related to zoning, regulatory, or building code decisions, and also excludes claims related to fraud, dishonesty, or bad faith. The full document is available here: PLED-Complaint for Declaratory Judgment – US Specialty Insurance Co

On Friday, March 15, Judge Sarah Evans Barker issued an order in the federal landlords lawsuit , aka “F&J Apartments, LLC, et al. (Plaintiffs) v. G Robert Hall Individually and in his official capacity as Mayor of the City of Charlestown, Indiana, et al. (Defendants).” This order dismisses the third of four claims brought against the city and government representatives by landlords in Pleasant Ridge.

As a reminder, the case is based on four causes of civil action:

  • Count 1: 42 USC § 1983 Claim for Violation of Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment 
  • Count 2: 42 USC § 1985(3) Claim for Conspiracy to Deprive Plaintiffs of Equal Protection Under Fourteenth Amendment 
  • Count 3: 18 USC § 1964  Civil Claim for Racketeering for Conspiracy to Violate 18 USC § 1952 (“Hobbs Act”)
  • Count 4: State Tort Claims of Conspiracy, Conversion, and Abuse of Process

The partial dismissal is based on a legal precedent that does not allow municipalities to be held liable for civil RICO claims (see page 4). The order also dismisses the RICO case against developer, Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC based on the plaintiff’s failure to demonstrate a “pattern of racketeering activity” (see page 6). 

Important things to note about this partial dismissal include:

  • This partial dismissal is ONLY for one of the four causes of civil action in the case. 
  • This partial dismissal is ONLY for the civil action brought against the city and has not “dismissed all allegations of any criminal activity” as has been boasted, since, to date, no criminal charges have been brought against the city in this matter. 
  • This partial dismissal is based on a legal technicality and the judge stated in her order that the “review establishes that Plaintiffs [landlords] have adequately alleged that Defendants [city] engaged in acts of extortion, which the parties do not dispute” (see page 6). 

Read the full order here: Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss Granted

Board of Public Works 03/18/2019

7ab1a11b-853b-474b-97c1-1815c11e4bdaThe Charlestown Board of Public Works met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 18, 2019. Following is a summary and audio (15:46) of the meeting:

  1. Call to Order/Pledge of Allegiance
  2. Determination of a Quorum and Roll Call – Members present were Mayor Bob Hall and Ben Ledbetter. Ted Little was absent. Also in attendance were Clerk Treasurer Donna Coomer and City Attorney Michael Gillenwater
  3. Approval of prior Meeting’s Minutes, current claims, and Payroll Allowance Docket from 03/04/2019 to 03/17/2019 combined into one motion
    • Motion to approve made by Ben Ledbetter
    • Seconded by Bob Hall
    • No Discussion
    • Unanimous Approval
  4. New Business
    • DOXO Agreement
      • Heather Mick explained that she was contacted by DOXO, a third party website where you can pay all of your bills. Currently the city has customers who use this service and they mail a check. This agreement will allow DOXO to send payments electronically.
      • Mayor Hall asked about the status of the company. Ms. Mick explained that she has done research and the company is legitimate. Money will be deposited into the Utility Clearing Fund. She said this is not a contract and the city can cancel any time
      • Motion to approve agreement made by Ben Ledbetter
      • Seconded by Bob Hall
      • Unanimous Approval
    • Water, Wastewater, and Sanitation Charge-Offs
      • Bob Hall stated the total amount is $1,154.89
      • Motion to approve made by Ben Ledbetter
      • Seconded by Bob Hall
      • Unanimous approval
    • Tony Jackson – Addressed the need for new light poles for street lights
      • He contacted companies for quotes. LED Lighting solutions did not respond. Century (sp?) has a delivery date of 6-7 month dates. The third company (name unclear) had the cheapest quote with a 4-6 week delivery date. 
      • Motion to approve made by Ben Ledbetter
      • Seconded by Bob Hall
      • Unanimous Approval
    • Mayor Bob Hall’s Update:
      • Mayor Hall said they have set the ribbon cutting for the new road from Co Rd 403 into Pleasant Ridge for Saturday, March 23 at 11:00. He said the street will be named “Coomer Way,” after the Clerk Treasurer Donna Coomer, who will be the longest serving Clerk Treasurer if she’s re-elected this year. Mayor Hall said that they looked for someone who has had a positive impact on the community and although she gets paid for her position as Clerk Treasurer, Donna Coomer has devoted a lot of time in volunteer work to improve Charlestown via the Beautification Committee.
      • Motion to approve made by Ben Ledbetter
      • Seconded by Bob Hall
      • Unanimous Approval
      • Donna Coomer said she is humbled and thankful for this honor.
    • Michael Gillenwater Update:
      • Mr. Gillenwater said that Friday afternoon, in the federal lawsuit filed by the Landlords of Pleasant Ridge, the judge issued an order dismissing part of the case. He said there was a motion for judgment saying that even if everything the Landlords said was true that they’re not entitled to their claim. He said the judge agreed and dismissed the part of the suit related to the RICO claims that had been made. He said that the only thing remaining in the case are Civil Rights and Equal Protection claims and he does not believe there is much evidence to support those.
      • Bob Hall said that the judge said there’s no evidence to support the RICO claims. He said it’s been frustrating that they’ve been smeared by the “slumlords” and he’s happy the judge has found no wrongdoing on their part. He feels confident the other claims will be dismissed. He said this is like Pleasant Ridge making claims that they’ve used eminent domain when they have not. He said the Institute for Justice has made videos and that they’ve done it to make money through fundraising. He said the videos are false and that IJ uses them to raise money. He said he’s sure the videos will come up again since it’s an election year. He said that in depositions there’s been no admission of eminent domain. He said there’s a difference between homeowners and landlords and that no homeowners have been evicted. He said he trusts the people in the city of Charlestown and he thinks that politicians think the voters are stupid but they aren’t because they have common sense and can “figure out” the details.
  5.  Adjournment
    • Motion to Adjourn made by Ben Ledbetter
    • Seconded by Bob Hall
    • Unanimous approval

Audio here:

New Water Bill – How to Estimate Your Costs

To calculate an estimate of your new water bill, multiply your total consumption number (31 for me, which means I used 3,100 gallons) by .41 (which is the rate IAW charges per 100 gallons). Then add the standard meter fee of $14.23. The total is your new water bill estimate. 

Your sewer and garbage amounts won’t change for now. 

To determine how much of a credit you will receive until the fifth year based on your consumption, use the chart below:

Water Credits

Redevelopment Commission Meeting 03/14/2019

City-NEws-e1455073509249The Charlestown Redevelopment Commission met for a regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, March 14 at 9:00am. Following is a summary and audio (10:13) of the meeting: 

  1. Call to Order/Pledge of Allegiance
  2. Determination of a Quorum and Roll Call: Members present were Mayor Bob Hall, Ted Little, Eric Vaughn, George Roberts, and new member Pat Glotzbach of New Washington State Bank, who replaces John Spencer on the Commission. Also in attendance was Clerk Treasurer Donna Coomer
  3. Approval of prior meeting’s Minutes, current claims, and Payroll Allowance Docket from 02/11/2019 to 03/10/2019 combined into one motion for approval
    • Motion to approve made by George Roberts
    • Seconded by Eric Vaughn
    • No Discussion
    • Unanimous approval
  4. Mayor’s Updates
    • Renaissance Project – Due diligence is due by April 1. Paul Wheatley and company have been organizing this effort. Ground breaking is currently scheduled for May. Mayor Hall said that Paul Wheatley has been very active and has brought several people to town who might be interested in building and developing in town. Mr. Glotzbach spoke to Paul Wheatley’s connections in the community and his experience as a redevelopment director.
    • L&M Bag Co – They have a signed agreement and it is scheduled to close within 60 days if the contract receives approval by the city attorney.
  5. Adjournment
    • Motion to adjourn made by Eric Vaughn
    • Seconded by George Roberts
    • Unanimous

Audio here: