Pleasant Ridge neighbors reveal developments in lawsuit against city of Charlestown

Updated: Feb. 10, 2017 at 7:43 PM EST
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CHARLESTOWN, IN (WAVE) - An order was filed by the Institute for Justice along with 50 neighbors in the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood against the city of Charlestown.

The order stops the city from issuing what neighbors say are unjust code enforcement fines. The city says they have not done anything illegal.

"The city of Charlestown is abusing code enforcement to drive its most vulnerable citizens from their homes," Jeff Rowes, a Senior Attorney with the Institute for Justice, said.

The Institute for Justice is representing Pleasant Ridge neighbors in a lawsuit that has been going on for almost three years. The IJ accuses the city of Charlestown of using code enforcement to circumvent eminent domain and drive home owners out of Pleasant Ridge.

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Rowes claims the city is not giving his clients sufficient time to fix their properties before the fines start accumulating daily. Some neighbors have faced thousands of dollars in fines.

"I will not sit back and watch people that I grew up with, neighbors who are now on oxygen tanks or people who could not show up today, be kicked out of their house," Josh Craven said.

Craven is the President of the Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association and says in four months he has seen 140 of the about 300 homes in Pleasant Ridge sold to a private developer.

"We have been here all out lives and it's like we are not concerned any more," George Doss said. "It's like we are old and retired so move us out,"

George and his wife Sally raised their family in their home and have owned it for 34 years.

They have not been asked to sell their home to the city or a developer, but seeing most the homes on their block sold causes concern for the retired couple.

"When you are 65 years old and you have to go to the bank and borrow on 30 years, ya know I'll be 95 years old if I want to start over," George Doss said.

The IJ along with the neighbors on the lawsuit like Craven say they are fighting for everyone in Pleasant Ridge to be treated fairly by the city and not forced out to sell their homes.

City Attorney, Michael Gillenwater released a statement in responded to the order filed by the IJ.

"The city of Charlestown has a duty to eliminate unsafe housing," Gillenwater said. "In order to both encourage responsible landlords and hold irresponsible landlords accountable, the city council enacted an inspection program for at-risk rental properties."

The statement continued to say few repairs were made to rental units.

There will be a hearing on the order in early March, and Rowes hopes a decision will be made shortly after. In the meantime, they will rely on emergency restraining orders if needed.

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