Thursday, January 9, 2014

Eminent Domain and Fishers Downtown

As most people in Fishers know, town government is busily trying to redevelop downtown Fishers.  As part of this concept, they want to build a new street extending west from Lantern Road to Municipal Drive.  This would extend the east-west road that runs past Target and Fifth Third all the way west to the municipal complex.

Problem is, there are existing homes and businesses in the way.  The town has made deals with 3 property owners to pay them over $1 million total for their land.  But, they have not been able to reach a deal with one property owner who owns a home and business adjacent to the railroad track.  So what do they do?  Last night at the town council meeting, they authorized eminent domain legal action if necessary.

Now, this is a Very Big Deal in Fishers.  Prior downtown proposals pretty much expressly swore off using eminent domain (officially "condemnation proceedings") to acquire property, because if there is anything in Fishers more unpopular than forced annexation, it is eminent domain.  And the property owner has been there quite a while and doesn't see another place to move his home and small business and stay in Fishers.

To be clear, there are things I like about the downtown development, and things I don't like.  And this highlights one of the things I dislike most.  The downtown development threatens to displace a lot of small local businesses.  My insurance agent is one of those who has agreed to sell.  I have no idea where they are going. Some of the new business will be local, and some won't.  Still up in the air is what happens to the law offices, pizzeria, ice cream store, and more, in that area.

I opposed this in 2007 when a prior plan proposed to displace locals and replace them with chain stores in a box-formation of strip malls. Apparently the current council has not learned from that lesson. Growth and redevelopment must not come on the backs of local residents and businesses.  If they can't come up with a "win-win" scenario, they either need to think harder, negotiate better, or it is time for more new blood in Fishers government.