Dispute continues over property used for parkSeptember 10, 2019
By CANDY NEAL
HUNTINGBURG — A lawsuit against the City of Huntingburg concerning property used near Market Street Park is inching closer to going to trial.
City Attorney Phil Schneider said that attorneys involved in the suit met last week to discuss dates for upcoming hearings.
“But we are still willing to sit down and negotiate,” he said. “We want to find a resolution to this.”
The city and GSES LLC of Washington, owned by Grant Swartzentruber, have had different negotiation meetings after GSES filed its lawsuit. The suit was first filed in November, and then again in February, at which time the city was given official notice.
GSES’ lawsuit involves the company’s property at 317 E. Fourth St., which includes China Wok on the first floor and apartments on the second floor.
The lawsuit states that the city permanently installed electrical equipment on GSES’ property without permission or compensation to the company. The suit also states that curbing was also installed “at the rear of the property without consulting the plaintiff, which has made it virtually impossible for large vehicles to access the property.” GSES also claims that some of the company’s property was used as a staging area and for storing materials and equipment during construction of the park without permission.
All this was done through inverse condemnation, the suit claims. Inverse condemnation is when the government takes private property and fails to compensate the property’s owner, as required by the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
GSES is requesting a jury trial to solve the dispute and determine compensation.
In Huntingburg’s response to the claims, filed in April, the city admits installing the electrical equipment on GSES’ property. It also agrees that curbing has been installed, but the city “denies any inferred allegation that such curbing was installed, or is located on GSES’s property.” Huntingburg also denies that it authorized the construction company, Jasper Lumber, to use GSES’ property as a staging area or for storing equipment.
Also in response, the city has filed some counterclaims. One is against GSES, stating that the company has two large exhaust vents on the city’s property. The city is requesting that the vents be removed from the city’s property and that the city be compensated. GSES protests the claim, stating that the vents were in place prior to GSES purchasing the property and citing the statute of limitations.
The city’s second counterclaim is against Jasper Lumber, the company that constructed the park, stating that it was the company’s decision to use GSES’ property as a staging area. Jasper Lumber has stated that it did set up its staging area and requested that the staging claim be dismissed against the city, which was approved in June.
Jasper Lumber has also requested it be dismissed from the claim because Jasper Lumber “is a private contractor and cannot take property through inverse condemnation.” A ruling has not yet been made.
Market Street Park, which is located behind Old Town Hall between Third and Fourth streets, opened in October.
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