As the expansion of Ball State University continues along Riverside Avenue, houses continue to fall in its path. Through the laws of eminent domain, the university is able to seize, purchase and level adjacent properties for market value and continue its expansion unhindered.
This sounds good for all parties - in theory. The university acquires the real estate it needs to continue expanding while nearby homeowners sell their houses for market value and everyone goes away happy, right?
In at least one case, that's incorrect. The university's expansion has gobbled up most of the housing on the 600 block of North Calvert Avenue, except for one holdout - the family of David and Jacquolyne Werner - who had no intentions of moving.
As Ball State alumni, they have been lifelong supporters of the university community, hosting dozens of visitors from far-off lands and generally giving more back to the community than they ever took. In better times, that counted for something.
Then, during the week of Oct. 14, the Werners received a notice that the university intended to pursue an eminent domain seizure and, hours later, Jacquolyne Werner suffered a stroke and ultimately passed away.
But that's not all. David Werner spent about 20 years fighting for better public transportation. The university plans to build a parking garage on the property, which completely defeats Werner's cause in a sad, ironic twist.
The university can acquire the property - that's not the question here. What is important is how the university handles this situation.
Should the Werners be treated differently than any other family? Certainly yes, because heartlessly buying and leveling the property is no way to thank alumni who have devoted their lives to the campus community, especially in the Werner family's time of mourning.
Here, the university's need for land and parking is far outweighed by the needs of one family. The university should find a way to compromise with the Werner family, and the Werner family should make sure the university puts things right.
Law or no law, respect transcends eminent domain.