Westfield roundabout projects overlapping into homeowners’ yards

(WISH Photo)

WESTFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – Some homeowners are battling the city of Westfield to keep their property.

Crews are working on around a dozen construction projects to build roundabouts.

“Dump trucks, bull dozers, back hoes,” listed John Johns as he mowed his lawn right by the construction at 161st and Carey Road.

The project backs right up to Johns’ property.

“All in the name of progress,” he smiled. “It’s just getting a little frustrating.”

The most frustrating part came when the work to build this roundabout at 161st and Carey meant tearing up the ground in his yard.

“To my understanding, it was relocation of sewer and electric lines, not electric lines but sewer and other lines,” he said.

Having a work zone as a neighbor hasn’t been easy for Johns. He’s trying to sell the home. But he at least wants to move rather than being forced like other properties.

“You can’t take property without due process,” said Brian Zaiger, Westfield City Attorney. “And that’s where all eminent domain springs from.”

That’s exactly what’s happening two miles away at 161st and Oak Ridge Road. The homeowner there doesn’t want to give up the house or the land – even though the city needs it in order to build a roundabout.

The city made offers to buy the property, but the homeowner turned them down choosing to take it to court instead.

“It’s called a hearing to show cause and the property owner has the opportunity to show why the condemning authority can’t acquire the property,” said Zaiger.

He said rarely does a property owner win the case. It’s also a risk because the home could be appraised at a price that’s lower than what the city offered.

“There are some negotiations there. I mean every appraisal’s not perfect but keep in mind, this is taxpayers’ money. You just don’t pay it out because somebody wants it. You have to be a good steward with the taxpayer’s money,” said Zaiger.

Zaiger suggests homeowners get their own appraisal, that way they can have more leverage when it comes to negotiations.

He added that in the past 12 years, he can only remember one case in the county where a homeowner successfully stopped an eminent domain case.

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