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Property owner surprised by Valparaiso’s eminent domain filing

Updated: December 1, 2013 6:46AM



VALPARAISO — Although it’s routine for the city to start condemnation procedures on a downtown property, the property owner in a recent case is not happy that he didn’t know about it.

Ernie Darr told the Board of Public Works and Safety that he thought that he and the city had reached an agreement for the 0.15-acre parking lot in the 100 block of West Lincolnway.

He’d met with city officials two weeks ago and agreed not to sell it to another interested party but instead sell it to the city for the expansion of Central Park Plaza.

Mayor Jon Costas responded that the city’s position hadn’t changed, but Valparaiso has deadlines to meet and this is a precaution that the city should start early.

City Administrator Bill Oeding said this is just to make sure the city isn’t still negotiating in six months.

Darr said he owns about two thirds of the block between Lafayette and Napoleon streets, on the south side of Lincolnway.

After the city approached him in June about selling the rear parking lot, he got offers on all his properties.

“I would like to accommodate them with the park, but it has to be fair to me and to my future purchaser,” Darr said.

He didn’t give numbers but said there’s a big disparity between the assessment he got based on local property values and the one the city received that used similar property in other local municipalities.

But Darr didn’t know about the eminent domain resolution the Board passed Thursday until he happened to call the city to ask how bargaining was going.

“If they want to play hardball, I’m getting old. I have time for hard ball,” Darr said.

Oeding said that the alley behind Bistro 157, Locks of Fun and AMA Design and Print would become part of Central Park Plaza’s extension, but businesses will have room for deliveries.

“I expect most of them will turn their backs into new store fronts,” he said.

One already told him it would.

Also at the meeting, the Board voted to extend the completion date of the new Five Points roundabout from Nov. 5 to Nov. 13.

The roundabout, which will be the biggest in the city and have two lanes of traffic, is going in at the intersection of Calumet Avenue and Roosevelt and Vale Park roads.

City Project Manager Don McGinley said the delay was because of the relocation of utilities when the project began in spring, rain delays the last two weeks and poor soils.

There’ll be no penalty, and the Indiana Department of Transportation expected to have it finished Oct. 1. although the city projected a November completion.

More rain could extend the opening even longer, but traffic is routed through the area now.



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