Property owner files suit against city in land dispute


HUNTINGBURG — A property owner, who alleges some of his downtown land just north of Market Street was used for the new park, is suing the City of Huntingburg.

Grant Swartzentruber of Washington-based GSES LLC claims in his lawsuit that the city used part of his property, located at 317 E. Fourth St., without permission. The property includes China Wok on the first floor and apartments on the second floor.

Market Street Park is located behind Old Town Hall between Third and Fourth streets. The park opened in October.

GSES’ attorney, Carmel attorney George Padgitt, filed the lawsuit Nov. 20, and then again Feb. 13, at which time the city was served notice.

The lawsuit states that the city used GSES’ property for staging and storing materials and equipment without compensating the owner.

“[The city] even went as far as to install what appears to be permanent electrical equipment on [GSES’] property without permission or compensation,” the lawsuit reads. “Further [the city] installed curbing at the rear of the property without consulting [GSES], which has made it virtually impossible for large vehicles to access the property.”

Huntingburg City Attorney Phil Schneider said the city has been in discussions with the property owner about the matter.

“There is an electric transformer that was placed on their property, in approximately the same location as a telephone pole that was there previously. The city believes that we need to compensate them for that,” Schneider said Friday. “So we are trying to determine what just and fair compensation for that would be.

“But we dispute some other things they are alleging.”

The city isn’t sure the claim of not being able to drive a large truck onto their property is legitimate. “We’re not sure of that,” Schneider said.

But, “they adjoin on public property, not on a public street. It’s public property. They don’t necessarily have the right to drive unlimited vehicles over public property,” he said. “And the city has a right to develop its public property however it thinks it is best for the general public.”

Schneider said the city is trying to find a solution to the matters. Among those discussions is a proposal from GSES that would require some alterations to the park, Schneider said.

“The city has been looking into the cost of that and how it might affect the park aesthetically,” he said.

Swartzentruber is requesting that a jury trial be held to determine what part of his property was used, and to determine the compensation for that use.

Despite the lawsuit being filed, negotiations still continue.

“We’re trying to work through these things. We may not be able to,” Schneider said. “If not, it may have to go to court, to a judge and, eventually, maybe a jury.”

More on