Town going to court over trail

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FORTVILLE — The town of Fortville is asking a court to order the owners of a church and a home to sell parts of their land needed for a trail project after negotiations failed.

The church says it’s working out issues on its end that need to be taken care of before the trail comes through, while the homeowners say the town hasn’t addressed their concerns over the project.

The future trail will extend along North Fortville Pike and County Road 200W, between West County Road 100N and State Road 234.

Fortville filed complaints for condemnation in Hancock County courts against the trustees of Mt. Carmel Primitive Baptist Church of Hancock County located at 9654 N. Fortville Pike, and Dennis and Katherine Danielson regarding their property in the 900 block of Maple Street.

On the church property, Fortville is looking to take a strip of land along Fortville Pike totaling 0.136 acre, as 0.095 of the 0.231 needed is already in the public right-of-way. On the Danielsons’ property, the town is looking to take a strip along Maple Street totaling 0.071 acre, as 0.069 of the 0.14 needed is already in existing right-of-way. Some more land farther into the properties would also be needed for temporary right-of-way during the trail’s construction.

Fortville’s complaints state that the town attempted to negotiate with the church and the Danielsons in good faith, including getting appraisals and offering to buy the right-of-way from the property owners in compliance with state law.

“The parties have been unable to agree upon the purchase and sale of such interests,” the town states in both complaints.

Both complaints ask the courts to require the church and the Danielsons to allow the town to compensate them for and take the land needed for the trail.

Brian Hayes, a deacon at Mt. Carmel Primitive Baptist Church of Hancock County, said the church is not against accommodating the trail project, but rather appears to be moving slower than the town would like.

“I obviously need to step up my game if they’ve done that,” he said of learning of Fortville’s court filing.

One of the issues he and his fellow church leaders are working out is how to reconfigure the handicap parking in front of the church, which would be required when the trail is added.

“That’s one of our main concerns,” Hayes said, adding he’s awaiting estimates on that work.

David Murphy, a Greenfield-based lawyer representing the Danielsons, filed an objection in that case disagreeing with the town’s stance that it’s made a good-faith effort to buy the part of the property it needs. The objection states the town has refused to address deficiencies the Danielsons have raised about the project.

The objection also refers to a letter sent to a trail project representative last year asking for the town’s appraisal to account for looking into possible contaminants in the sub-surface area in front of the Danielsons’ driveway. The letter questions whether the trail would worsen already problematic drainage on the property, raises concerns over damage to roots of trees on the property, and argues comparable sales used in the appraisal are not similar to the Danielsons’ property.

The Italianate-style home was built in 1886. In a historic property report commissioned for the trail project in 2017, Zionsville-based Weintraut & Associates recommended the house’s eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

A hearing for the complaint against the church is scheduled for Oct. 21 in Hancock County Circuit Court while one for the Danielsons is slated for Nov. 1 in Hancock County Superior Court 1.