Dear Editor,
I recently read in Hamilton County Commissioner Steve Dillinger’s Facebook post that he is committed to and understands property rights and their direct impact to quality of life for residents.
Property rights are the most basic rights in a free society.
That must be a new revelation for Dillinger.
I say that because of what happened 12 years ago to McMillan’s Auto Care & Towing, my property at 599 Conner St., in downtown Noblesville, owned by me and my wife, Dorothy.
Just to give you a little background, the business was originally a Shell service station from the 1950s until the gas pumps closed in 1998. Then I purchased the property from Shell in 1999. Before that, we had been leasing the property since 1985.
The trouble started when Hamilton County got a wild hair to buy my three lots for additional parking and threatened my family’s livelihood.
The county wanted to buy my property specifically for use by visitors to the Hamilton County Government & Judicial Center, jurors and county employees, or for potential future construction of offices for the Hamilton County government. They really hadn’t decided how they wanted to use it.
At the time, Steve Dillinger and Steve Holt were the current County Commissioners, and Mike Howard was county attorney.
The commissioners felt that my property was the best solution for additional parking.
Hamilton County offered us $314,000 for the land, an appraisal that attached no worth to my business.
All they were buying was the dirt. I wanted to be able to resume business elsewhere for my family to continue in my retirement.
The county refused to increase their offer to include relocation costs. At the time, my property was worth five times that, at least $1.5 million to cover cost for land and a building.
So then the Board of Commissioners attempted to condemn my property and to take my property by eminent domain. Commissioners filed their complaint for condemnation of my property on Oct. 26, 2006.
I had 30 days to find an attorney to fight to keep my property.
The Board of Commissioners asserted that it was a municipal corporation authorized to exercise eminent domain power.
So we had to somehow prove that the County Commissioners didn’t have a present or fair and reasonable future need for the additional parking spaces for the employees and jurors.
My wife and I spent thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees in the case, which was drawn out for almost two years. It was stressful. And I wouldn’t wish this on any property owner. It was a nightmare of an experience to think that I could have lost my property.
The Commissioners’ allegation that my property was being acquired for their purpose ended up failing to demonstrate the use or necessity which would justify their attempt to take my property, according to court documents.
A Hamilton County judge ruled on July 24, 2008, that the County Commissioners’ eminent domain lawsuit against my property was flawed because County Commissioners failed to show how the property would be used or even why it was needed.
This eminent domain case illustrates that Commissioner Dillinger does not care about property rights.
This summer, McMillan’s is celebrating 35 years in business. And the property is currently under contract with a private developer for purchase for future development, but on my term, this time.
And yes, I’m voting for my son, Charlie McMillan Jr., for County Commissioner, on Election Day June 2. Because he understands property rights.
Chuck C. McMillan Sr.