Today, Indiana Judge Jason Mount ruled that the city of Charlestown’s illegal land grab in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood is likely unconstitutional. Judge Mount granted Pleasant Ridge homeowners’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, which immediately stops the city’s use of unconscionably high housing code fines to compel property owners to sell to a private developer, Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC, controlled by businessman John Neace.
“Today’s ruling unmasks the City of Charlestown’s and developer John Neace’s actions for what they are: a naked land grab, taking from the poor to give to the rich,” said Anthony Sanders, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice (IJ), which represents dozens of individual homeowners along with the Charlestown Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association. “With this injunction in place, the city either must force Mr. Neace’s company to pay several million dollars in fines or waive the fines it has illegally and unconstitutionally issued against the residents of Pleasant Ridge.”
In his ruling, Judge Mount repeatedly stated the city has acted irrationally in fining Pleasant Ridge property owners. He stated that by not enforcing the fines against homes purchased by the private developer, the city unconstitutionally gave Pleasant Ridge Redevelopment, LLC, preferential treatment. He wrote that the city gave “a free pass to the developer, who has continued to rent out properties with acknowledged” code violations. He also ruled “Plaintiffs are providing safe housing that endangers neither tenants nor neighbors, and Plaintiffs should be treated at least as well under the law as the developer who is providing unsafe housing.”
Judge Mount wrote: “The city cannot rationally penalize Plaintiff Association (or any other Pleasant Ridge property owner) for having maintained unsafe conditions in Pleasant Ridge while simultaneously waiving fines for a property owner like PRR… unless it also waives the fines for other property owners who the city has penalized for maintaining unsafe conditions.”