City of Charlestown, Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association Reach Settlement in Lawsuit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Mayor Treva Hodges | 502-297-4390 | Mayor@CityofCharlestown.com
City of Charlestown, Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association reach settlement agreement in 2017 Lawsuit
Charlestown, Indiana | December 21st, 2020 - A settlement agreement has been reached in the lawsuit brought against the City of Charlestown by the Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood Association. The case filed in Clark County Circuit Court in January 2017 by the members of the neighborhood association alleged that the City and its agents unconstitutionally imposed fines against homeowners but failed to provide equal enforcement against a private developer.
The neighborhood association was previously granted a preliminary injunction in December 2017, a decision that was overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals and remanded back to Special Judge Jason Mount. This week’s settlement agreement concludes the nearly four-year long legal battle and makes it unnecessary for the parties to take the case to trial. This case is separate from the federal lawsuit filed against the city in 2018 by former landlords who alleged claims of racketeering and civil rights violations. The federal case was settled under the administration of former Mayor Bob Hall in December 2019, and ended with the city’s insurance carrier agreeing to pay $1.5 million to the federal plaintiffs and setting aside an additional $150,000 for attorney fees and settlement costs in the civil matter, after which all further costs would be at the city’s expense.
“We are happy that this nightmare is coming to an end for the Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood,” said Mayor Treva Hodges, who inherited the case from her predecessor, former Mayor Bob Hall, when she assumed office in January of this year, “I know that the residents have endured many sleepless nights as they’ve worried about losing their homes to big development. I hope that everyone rests a little easier tonight knowing that they are safe.”
The agreed upon order takes into consideration all present and future property maintenance codes the city may enforce and ensures that all enforcement will include a grace period in which owners may bring their properties into alignment with the codes prior to receiving fines or penalties. Additionally, the order guarantees that code enforcement will be performed equitably and that no one property owner or neighborhood will be treated differently than any other in the city. With the settlement, the City has agreed to pay $70,000 in attorney fees.
“This was a complicated case,” said Mayor Hodges, “ultimately taxpayers can take comfort in knowing that we’ve reached an agreement that saves us the expense of taking the case to trial and that was less than half of the amount set aside for the settlement by the previous insurance carrier, but unfortunately, the city will pay a hefty price for the mismanagement of this development project for years to come.”
In October the city was notified by their insurance carrier that they would not renew their coverage agreement due to the high cost of settlement in the federal lawsuit. Other carriers were reluctant to take the risk, and in November the city received only one bid for coverage that resulted in a $48,000 increase in yearly premiums. Mayor Hodges expects the challenge to maintain adequate liability coverage will remain present for the foreseeable future.
“The lesson we learn from the Pleasant Ridge case from start to finish is that development and growth in Charlestown must be accomplished fairly, equitably, and with an eye for protecting our existing residents. I promised to put Charlestown first if elected and I’m happy that we’re able to put an end to one of the uglier parts of our history.”
Regarding the future of Pleasant Ridge and other developments Mayor Hodges states, “I’ve worked in partnership with the developer to have the dilapidated structures he purchased in Pleasant Ridge removed and the vacant lots cleared and properly graded. The neighborhood looks much better than it did one year ago, we have homes being renovated and new homes going up soon, and next year we’ll be able to pave the main street through the neighborhood.”
Mayor Hodges plans to recognize the historical significance of the Pleasant Ridge Neighborhood formally with an official proclamation this week. “I’m excited to move forward and identify more development projects that enrich the lives of everyone in and around our city.”