In a big win for property rights, Ball State University has abandoned its efforts to seize Hiatt Printing, a family-owned print shop of 40 years in Muncie, Ind. Hiatt Printing is now run by Chris Hiatt, who also heads a local taxpayers’ rights organization.
The university had originally wanted to seize that property to build a $25.9 million hotel, dorm, and conference center on the BSU campus. Ball State lowballed the print shop, offering the Hiatts a third of what they would have sold their property for. When Hiatt refused to sell at that price, Ball State authorized eminent domain in September 2012. But last week, citing how the appraisal and the seller’s demand “cannot be reconciled,” the university decided “to cease the eminent domain proceedings.”
In a public statement, Hiatt was undeniably grateful: “I am still somewhat stunned but extremely happy as this air of uncertainty is no longer hanging over our head … at least for now.” But he also called upon Indianans to reform eminent domain laws:
In lieu of a legal ruling or a change in the statutes of Indiana, no private property in Indiana, no matter where it lies, is safe from condemnation and seizure at the hands of one of the state’s educational institutions. We hope that everyone that’s taken an interest and shown us support on this issue will now take the opportunity and join us in calling upon our state legislators to eliminate the ability of our state’s higher education institutions to seize private property to expand their fiefdoms.
As the Institute for Justice previously reported, “state universities in Indiana have the power to condemn and seize private property.” State Sen. Doug Eckerty introduced two bills to curb public universities’ eminent domain powers, but both bills died after pressure from Ball State. Meanwhile, in April, a judge ruled in favor of Ball State, allowing its eminent domain proceedings to go forth.
— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice