Stealing Homes In Indiana

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Last year, residents of Charlestown, Indiana, thwarted an eminent domain attempt initiated by Mayor Bob Hall to allow developers to buy out, raze, and redevelop their entire Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. With pro bono assistance from Institute for Justice, and a well-organized effort, residents were able to put an end to those plans, and keep their homes.

Pleasant Ridge is still in need of improvement, however, and owners want to work with the Mayor on alternative plans to reduce crime and clean up problem properties. Therefore, several neighborhood leaders have proposed establishing a steering committee, to work with the Mayor’s office on revitalizing their Pleasant Ridge neighborhood. Mayor Hall has been asked to serve on the Board of this steering committee, along with one other representative from his staff.

But Mayor Hall has reservations about working with the Neighborhood Association.

Check out this statement made by the Mayor:

“Hall said Wednesday that the neighborhood association and the steering committee represent too few residents of the neighborhood.

“They are more of a special-interest group than they are a homeowners association,” Hall said of the neighborhood association. “They only represent less than 15 percent of the property owners in Pleasant Ridge. A real homeowner’s association will represent 100 percent of the properties in a subdivision.”

Hall said he has made efforts to revitalize the neighborhood since 2000, and it’s important to him that the area improves.

“I am not the mayor of the minority of Pleasant Ridge, I am the mayor of the whole city,” he said. “I am not going to be involved in a committee that has a very narrow focus and is only representing a very small interest.”

Recall from my previous blogs that the Mayor’s plans for redevelopment, though never solidified, included multifamily structures and mixed use development. In other words: establishment of Homeowners’ Associations. Apparently, Hall thinks mandatory membership HOAs would better represent owners’ interests than a voluntary membership resident-supported Neighborhood Association. Where on earth did he get that idea?

Apparently someone has been drinking the Kool-Aid, courtesy of HOA Industry special interest groups representing Community Associations and Developers.

Obviously, Mr. Hall hasn’t got a clue about the realities of HOAs! Although 100% of owners are required to be members, that does not mean that the HOA actually “represents 100 percent of the properties in a subdivision!” Note the use of the word “properties” with regard to representation — not “homeowners” or “people.”

Ask any minority property owner in an HOA if his or her interests are represented, or if those interests are merely outnumbered by majority stakeholders.

And as for having a “very narrow focus” and “only representing a very small interest,” — well, that’s the norm for HOAs. And the people of Pleasant Ridge weren’t very happy about the Mayor’s previous attempts to align himself with the narrow interests of the developer, who, along with the Mayor, wanted to get his hands on grant money.

So who is representing the interests of the homeowners in Pleasant Ridge at this point? At the last City Council meeting, neighborhood association representative Jason Patrone reportedly seemed to have the support of neighbors in attendance.

Let’s see how this one plays out.

(link to Charlestown News and Tribune)


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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

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