We Want Your House

Eminent domain takings

Today, a beautiful home sits at 604 Calvert Street in Muncie, Indiana. Sometime soon, if an eminent domain case brought by Ball State University is successful, it will be replaced by a parking lot.

Until October 2002, 604 Calvert was the home of Jacquolyne Werner, who had lived there for decades with her husband, David (who died in 2000), raised a family there, and been actively involved in the campus community. She died the same day she found out that the university, which had been offering to buy her home for a couple of years, planned to take it via eminent domain.

Now her children are resisting Ball State administrators who want the property to build a parking lot. It's an especially unfortunate confrontation because it might have been avoided. Months before his mother's death, Michael Werner had asked for a little patience from Ball State; he was trying to convince his mother to move with him to Florida, after which they would have been open to selling the house.

But now he's fighting the university on principle. "My mother devoted her life to that university," he explains. "And still, they wouldn't quit pestering her. She was an old woman, and she felt like they were trying to take away her home. Which they were!"

Werner sounds cautiously optimistic about the family's chances in court. But to his knowledge, Ball State has won every eminent domain case it has pursued in the neighborhood. Political science professor John Rouse notes that "the university is the only 'industry' left in Muncie. It's the new gorilla in town. This animal gets to sit anywhere it wants."

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