Carmel business owner questions if land seizure is racially motivated
Business owner questions motives behind land seizure
CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — The owner of BCforward is questioning the motives of the City of Carmel over its attempts to seize his land using eminent domain.
From the 2nd floor of his business, Justin Christian can see his property that the city wants to seize for a roundabout and road project. “We’ve invested millions in acquiring these properties, right, and what was offered was pennies on the dollar,” Christian said.
Christian says he doesn’t think the proposed seizure fits the legal definition of when eminent domain can be used by the government.
“Eminent domain is only supposed to be leveraged in instances where there is a public need to seize that property,” he said. “I don’t understand the public value of this land seizure. If I saw there was going to be a fire station over there, if I saw there was going to be a school over there, I could get my mind wrapped around that. This is something else that’s going on that just doesn’t feel right.”
For Christian, that something else might have a racial component to it. “Eminent domain abuse targeted at people of color, targeted at African Americans – there are several instances of that have happened here in Indiana where that is an unfortunate reality,” said Christian.
I-Team 8 asked if the process by which Carmel went about seizing the property made him question the city’s motives, to which he said, “Absolutely.”
In a statement from the city, it highlights the need to create safe roads to support the business community. The city’s project calls for putting a roundabout in the area of College Avenue, just north of 96th Street.
To do that, they would need to purchase .295 acres of Christian’s land.
According to the city’s statement, Carmel has built “151 roundabouts” and “similar acquirement of partial parcels have been done across the city, without consideration of race. While building the city’s roundabout network, it has had to purchase more than 225 acres to complete those projects.”
The city says the city manager had reached out to Christian about the project, saying they thought he knew their plans. When Christian sent the city a letter outlining his concerns, they learned he might not have been as informed as they thought.
“We remain open to discussion about future development and are open to negotiation over the purchase price of the land needed to build a new roundabout,” the city said in the statement.
Carmel Mayor James Brainard said in a statement, “We respect the right of all property owners to control their own future and continue to thrive and be successful. The City of Carmel does all it can to support our corporate community, while also addressing the need to improve public safety for everyone. The city welcomes all business owners and investors, which includes those from the minority community.”
Brainard only has a few weeks left in office, so I-Team 8 reached out to Mayor-Elect Sue Finkam for comment. She said, “BCforward chose to invest here for undoubtedly strategic reasons and we must implement a collaborative economic development strategy and infrastructure program that encourages continued business investment.”
Christian told I-Team 8 that he’s considering legal action against the City of Carmel because of this situation.
I-Team 8 will continue to follow this story and bring any updates to WISH-TV and WISH-TV.com.