Sunday, August 29, 2010

MSD Decatur Township Mistaken About Its Ownership of Land in River Run

Amy Hillenburg, editor and reporter at the Mooresville-Decatur Times, has a piece in Saturday's edition entitled "Resident wonders whose land is it anyway?" (you will need a subscription to view). The article centers around a claim by the MSD Decatur Township that it owns land that River Run residents had been told was their common area.

Given my role in land use issues here in Decatur Township, Hillenburg asked me about this situation. Information was still evolving in the last few days and even hours before the article went to press.

Bottom line - the school district is mistaken when it claims to own this common area.

First a little background. The River Run subdivision was zoned and developed by Crossmann Communities. Eventually, the Crossmann company was bought by Beazer Homes. River Run extends from Epler Avenue on the north to Mills Road on the south and from Mann Road on the east to the Old Mill Park subdivision on the west. In 1998, Crossmann and the district did a land swap - 14 acres then owned by Crossmann that had extensive Mann Road frontage was swapped for 14 acres then owned by the district that had frontage on Epler Avenue. This exchange gave the district a second entrance for what became the Decatur Intermediate School, and it gave River Run a wider northern area, more suitable for development. In 1999 these swapped acres were rezoned to the appropriate land use categories through petition 99-Z-32. This was all before Don Stinson became Superintendent.

Since then the new acres in River Run were platted and built. Common areas are scattered throughout the development, but the one in question is about 1.5 acres and abuts the southwest corner of the Intermediate School property and is on the north side of the area where Dollar Run Lane, Sweet River Drive and Dollar Forge Lane all converge.

The district claims that they own this common area. But, all documents obtained fromt the City differ with that conclusion.

Lets start with the Assessor's records. Greg Bowes, Marion County Assessor, tells me that his records show the legal owner to be the River Run Homeowners Association and that the last transaction involving that property was a transfer of ownership from Crossmann Community Partners to the HOA in 2004.

I also made inquiries of staff in Division of Planning, Department of Metropolitan Development. One particularly helpful piece of information was provided to me by Linda Ahlbrand, Principal Planner II, who generated a GIS layered map of the area. I have uploaded it to Google Docs (click here to view) and there is a smaller version below.

The northern end of the River Run subdivision is shown, along with the school property and some abutting properties. The green shaded area is the common area parcel that is in dispute. The red-striped areas are the two 14-acre parcels that were swapped in 1998 and rezoned in 1999. The red-striped areas were generated by the computer, based upon the legal description of the property provided for the rezoning. As you can see, the bulk of the common area was owned by Crossmann even before the land swap. The little spike on the north side of the common area was transferred to Crossmann due to the land swap.

At this point it is clear to me that this common area is owned by the River Run HOA and not the school district. If the district continues to make claims on its ownership, then it needs to prove the ascertain. But, I believe they are simply mistaken.

[August 31, 2010 - edited to add - in speaking with a neighbor in this area, it is clear that the property being discussed is not this 1.5 acre common area. Rather it is a 5 or more acre area to the north that lies between the homes in River Run and a creek or stream that runs through the school property. Why the school district thinks that this is linked to the land swap is not clear at all, as this property would have been zoned for school use and owned by the district well before, during, and after the swap. In addition, the district could not sell or transfer for free, any property it owned unless two independent appraisals determined its value at zero dollars. It is difficult to imagine that any valid appraisal would determine that a 5 plus acre parcel, with frontage on a busy street, is zero. Nor, it is clear that the district could preselect the buyer of such a property. Below is a map of the area. The 5 acre parcel is the land laying between the homes, which I highlighted with a red line, and the blue line that denotes a stream.

-- end edit]


Anonymous said...

You might have a problem with getting anyone at the MSD to admit they made a mistake of ANY kind. Plus Diamond Don and his cronies on the school board have been in the real estate business for quite a while now. That's been obvious.

Anonymous said...

Don't listen to board member Cathy Wiseman. If she can't pay her taxes then she would know absolutely nothing about land ownership.

They're probably planning on using that land to build Cathy a new house after hers is sold at tax auction. (sarcasm).

Anonymous said...

Again, the Decatur Board and Superintendent (and Jeff Baer) did not act responsibly. They truly don't get it. No doubt, they were well aware of this when they built DILC. No doubt.

Anonymous said...

If Wiseman loses her house what happens to her seat on the board?

Had Enough Indy? said...

anon 8:12 -- I only understand the outlines of the tax sale. But... even IF somebody buys the house in the sale, the owner has a year to pay the back taxes plus some penalty and they get their house back.

The only two things that would remove a board member are their voluntary resignation, or them moving out of the district they represent.

Anonymous said...

I got a robocall last night about some kind of "journey to excellence" meeting?????? I hate those stupid things; I never write down the time and place.

Anyone know what this is about and when?

Anonymous said...

LOL sorry....I just re-read my post. I said "I hate those things"....I meant the robo calls. Not the meetings LOL! The robo calls. I hate them.

What's these meetings about?

Anonymous said...

The meetings are to get your input. If I remember correctly, Gary said, "Yes, we want your input." He keeps haunting my phone. I thought he retired!

Anonymous said...

Im the one that will have to live with the fence in the backyard, This will look odd,a fence ,a creek, the woods, walking path. throwing good money after bad. OH just raise taxes. old don and the school board know what there doing. I did offer to buy the land in my backyard. TOP DOLLAR, no was what i got, not a thank you for taking care of there land for six years. thank you MDS