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Muncy threatens lawsuit over building condemnation

Muncy Evening News | July 6, 2005

The owner of the site of a once-thriving Jeffersonville business is livid that his property has been targeted for condemnation so it can be turned over to another developer.

"I'll sue them," Glenn Muncy said on Thursday, after learning that the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission voted 4-0 to exercise imminent domain over property he owns at 228 Spring St., once home to Tubby's.

The pizza restaurant and pub has not operated at the site since a Dec. 31, 2000 fire. Muncy later sold the Tubby's name to local businessmen John Durbin and Steve Harris, who operate the business at 3014 Middle Road.

In April, Muncy told The Evening News he plans to open a microbrewery in the two-story Spring Street building. He confirmed those plans on Thursday and said he has been leasing the building for restaurant equipment storage, while he firms up his plans.

But Redevelopment Commission members doubt Muncy has the ability to move forward with his business plan.

"We've talked to Mr. Muncy for many, many months," Redevelopment Commission Chairman Nathan Samuel said. "We offered to help move it along and assist him. He has some grand plans, but our perception is there's no way for him to pull them off."

Councilman John Perkins, who represents the city's downtown and serves on the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission, said a recent title search indicates the property is still subject to more than $500,000 in liens and judgments and that imminent domain might be the only way to clear the property's title.

"We've given Glenn plenty of time to see if he can put anything together, and we don't think he can," said Perkins. "It's too prime of a location to let it sit in that deteriorating condition."

For months, Muncy has said the liens are a mistake and that he is working with the state to correct the problem. On Thursday, he said the state has admitted that the liens are for a Rome City business with a similar name.

He also said he has been working with contractors on bids to repair the structure and that on Thursday he received quotes for ceiling and tile work.

"I've got investors now," he said. "I'm supposed to meet with an attorney at 10:30 (Friday) morning to draw up the corporation."

Perkins presented the resolution to seek imminent domain through the Jeffersonville Board of Public Works and Safety. The resolution includes a clause that if that Board of Works fails to act, the Redevelopment Commission will try to take the property on its own.

City Attorney Les Merkley, who recommended that the commission send the condemnation to the Board of Works, said the public works panel will likely review the commission's request within a few weeks. He is uncertain whether the public works board will look favorably on the condemnation.

"I have not even discussed that with the mayor," said Merkley.

If the city succeeds in taking Muncy's building, the Redevelopment Commission would issue a request for proposals for the site, then sell the building to whomever submitted the most favorable proposal.

"If they want to try and steal my property, let them come up with $500,000," Muncy said. "They better have a pretty good appraisal. I just turned down $250,000 for the property."

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that municipalities can take private property for the purpose of turning it over to private developers. Critics of the ruling say justices have misinterpreted the Constitution's Fifth Amendment, which provides that private property can be taken for "public use," so long as the property's original owner receives "just compensation."

Samuel said he wrestled with the idea of taking the old Tubby's building for months because he wanted to be certain the board had given Muncy every opportunity to demonstrate progress.

"I don't like taking peoples' property," Samuel said. "It's a struggle for me."

Perkins is optimistic that the city's efforts to revitalize its downtown - which includes a pending bid from a bankruptcy auction for the River Falls Motel and Lounge at a bankruptcy auction - will ultimately succeed.

"I think our downtown is going to be vibrant," Perkins said. "It think it's a great opportunity to get an upscale business down there."


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