Faithful readers of this blog will remember the struggle our congregation had with the local library board a while ago (If interested, you can read about this here then there). The long and short of it was that the library, located diagonally from us across the intersection in front of our building, was considering using eminent domain powers to acquire our church's property in order to expand their facilities. After a four-month long campaign by our congregation that was supported by a local lawyer, the Alliance Defense Fund, and Advance America, the library board decided on February 5, 2006, not to pursue any plan involving the acquisition of Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church's property. The headline in the local daily paper the next day read "Congregation rejoices at library decision."
Yet in an article published this week in a local weekly paper, a $110 million, eleven city blocks, seven towers proposal was unveiled by an Indianapolis firm for the downtown area. Two of these towers would be directly in front of and beside the church building, and a map published in the paper shows these towers being connected by a building structure that surrounds the church property on all four sides? Though this firm is only in the proposal stage at this point, the library board has agreed to lay further planning aside for six months in order to see how this proposal develops.
Just like our first go-around with the library board, all these proposals are being made public first before we have even been contacted. Last year we found sites on the web showing our building gone. We were served papers for a building inspection to estimate demolition costs during Thanksgiving that threatened eminent domain. I was told the sheriff would serve a warrant if I did not comply with this inspection. All of this before anyone from the library even talked to us! As I repeatedly explained to them in their own meetings, does not wisdom, a sense of public service, and neighborly love dictate that plans involving other's properties be discussed with them privately before you print articles and publish maps showing what you hope to do with their property?
The library board has taken to blaming others for the political mess that has resulted from their expansion hopes. Yet they must have done enough to alarm our state legislators, who, made aware of this situation in Kokomo, included in legislation signed by Governor Daniels earlier this year the removal of eminent domain powers from non-elected library boards. They and other community leaders need to consider again what community service really means. Fancy buildings and flower-lined streets may look nice and welcoming, but if paid for by bullying and overtaxing the citizens of Kokomo (ahem, our property taxes were increased by forty percent last year!) these amenities will only be a testimony to the moral and spiritual poverty of our leaders. The Lord warned against those leaders who clean the outside of the cup, but inwardly are "full of robbery and self-indulgence."
Strong words, yes, but so were being threatened with a warrant and eminent domain.