Michigan City moving ahead with property acquisition for rail projects

 The City Council decided to move forward with eminent domain proceedings to finish acquisition of properties required for the double-track commuter rail project, but not without pushback.

Two of the properties needed for the Michigan City train station and parking garage are likely to require legal intervention to finish the sale, Redevelopment Commission attorney Alan Sirinek told the council.

The city is buying the properties needed for the station and parking garage, while the railroad is buying other properties for the double-tracking project.

The RDC has a deadline to complete the acquisitions.

The double-track project, which aims to speed commuter rail travel between Chicago and Michigan City, is headed toward construction next summer, said Michael Noland, president and general manager of the South Shore Line. Contracts for construction are expected to be awarded around June 1, and the acquisitions need to be completd by then.

Two of the properties not purchased yet are a convenience store and a tattoo parlor.

The convenience store’s owner is either naïve or unrealistic about the value of the property, Sirinek said.

That parcel, at the corner of 10th and Franklin streets, has previously been used for a dry-cleaning firm and a gas station. There are significant environmental issues, including lead in the soil and a building “filled with asbestos,” Sirinek said.

The RDC’s offer was based on the assessed value of about $95,000, Sirinek said. “He countered with an offer that was significantly higher than what we offered — several times over what we offered.”

Another problematic property is a tattoo parlor whose owner hasn’t responded to the RDC’s overtures, including multiple letters and voicemails, Sirinek said.

Why not just walk into the tattoo parlor and ask to speak to the owner and make a final offer, Councilman Don Przybylinski, D-At-Large, asked.

It’s rare for a case to go to trial, Sirinek said, because they are almost always settled out of court beforehand. The eminent domain process requires negotiations and a fair and equitable price be paid for the property.

In addition, the federal law under which this property is to be acquired obligates the city to help in relocating the businesses in a comparable building if the owner wishes to continue operating the business elsewhere, he said.

Councilman Paul Przybylinski, D-2nd, criticized the RDC for not keeping the council informed about issues like this. “You keep refusing to get any input from the City Council,” he said.

“We need to mandate more updates or something to be brought to the council,” said Councilwoman Angie Deuitch, D-At-Large. “I think that’s part of the angst among the group.”

Don Przybylinski also criticized the company hired to do appraisals and make initial offers for the South Shore Line expansion projects for not keeping the council apprised of progress.

The resolution authorizing the initiation of eminent domain proceedings passed by a 7-2 vote, with the Przybylinski brothers voting no.

Previous Article

Michigan reports nearly 6,000 new COVID-19 cases and 183 deaths

Next Article

Michigan State Police warn of statewide Amazon and Apple scam

Related Posts