Carmel city officials diffuse eminent domain fears relating to storm water district


The Carmel City Council is currently exploring all options to help fix flooding problems in the Emerson Road area.

But residents are urging city leaders to be careful with one option: using eminent domain to seize land.

The newly formed Storm Water District utility has been tasked with solving Carmel’s drainage issues and at its first meeting ever it was suggested that taxpayers could be paying more to fix a problem then the affected houses were worth.

This led some to suggest that the city could buy a house, tear it down and build a retention pond as a cost-effective measure to solve the problem. But seizing these homes won’t likely be considered.

“Although the city always bears the responsibility and reserves the right to do what is necessary for projects in the best interest of a neighborhood or the city as a whole, there are currently no plans to use eminent domain in this area to acquire any houses,” Carmel City Engineer Jeremy Kashman said.


City Council President Eric Seidensticker said it was “one idea” because there was an e-mail received where a resident suggesting selling his house for this very reason.

Eminent domain was mainly discussed in regards to running utility pipes through people’s property lines instead of tearing up roads to run the pipes, which can be expensive.

“Ultimately if somebody says, ‘No, I don’t want to sell you this tiny strip of land on the edge of my property so you can use it as a utility easement,’ then that’s when the city could do this,” Seidensticker said. “You still have to mow the grass, but we get to lay some pipes underneath the ground.”

Despite this fact, some residents called Seidensticker with concerns about eminent domain, which he compared to yelling fire in a crowded movie theater.

“That term eminent domain creates panic,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s likely that a court would uphold a city taking someone’s house to build a retention pond.”

Kashman speculated that most residents would allow the easement because it helps solve a problem the residents are dealing with. He called it a “fair trade off.”

“As we do in all cases, our first priority is to work with residents for a solution amenable to all,” he said. “We view eminent domain as a final course of action to be used sparingly and only when all other efforts have failed.”