Homeowners in Indiana are fighting a mayor who wants to bulldoze their neighborhood.

Mayor Bob Hall of Charlestown, Indiana, applied for state grant money to remove 350 homes from the Pleasant Ridge neighborhood and put in a nicer development. The houses were bought by the Army in the 1940s as temporary housing for ammunition plant workers, and Hall argues they are now a “blight” on the city.

Needless to say, the people who live in that neighborhood disagree.

“We’re not transients. We’re real people,” said one resident, Ellen Keith. She and her husband David have lived in their home for 36 years. “The mayor wants to say that we have a crime and drug problem. … I guess because we’re a poor neighborhood, they want to label it like that.”

Even if they wanted to sell their homes and move, they wouldn’t be getting a fair price. Indiana’s Blight Elimination Program would only pay $6000-$15,000 for each home.

If their own mayor was going to attack their rights in such a cheap way, the residents of Pleasant Ridge decided they weren’t going down without a fight. No mayor was going to decide where they should live! They unified to form a neighborhood association and enlisted the Institute for Justice to help them defend their private property rights.

If the residents refuse to cooperate, the city has threatened to take their homes through eminent domain. Melinda Haring of the Institute says this would be a prime example of eminent domain abuse, which has been on the rise since the economy began growing again. Even its legitimate use is controversial, but eminent domain law still wouldn’t be valid in this case:

Eminent domain can be used if two conditions are satisfied: the taking is for a public use and just compensation is provided. New homes and retail are not a public use.

Government was designed to protect the life, liberty and property of its citizens. When it acts instead to destroy property and restrict liberty, it has overstepped its bounds – even at the local level.

The Charlestown mayor’s plan received so much negative attention that he put the application on hold for a few months.

The town has been vocal with their thoughts on the issue. Hopefully Mayor Hall will listen – to the law, to his responsibility as an elected official, and especially to the voice of the city’s people who have the most to lose.