A Purdue professor and her family are battling the Tippecanoe School Corporation’s attempts to acquire her family’s farmland through a legal process called eminent domain.
The land has been at the center of an ongoing dispute between TSC and the Krause family since TSC first sought to acquire 43 acres in 2015. After the parties were unable to reach an agreement on the sale of the land, TSC filed for eminent domain on May 6.
Eminent domain is a legal process by which a government entity can acquire private property for public use without the owner’s consent. Indiana law and federal statutes require governments to provide market-value compensation for all property taken.
TSC was reportedly negotiating the sale of the property as early as 2015, according to court documents from December 2020.
TSC says it seeks to use the land, which has been appraised at over $3 million, to construct a new Klondike Middle School, according to court documents. One document says TSC is “one of the fastest growing communities in Indiana,” and that the facilities provided by Klondike Middle School and Klondike Elementary School do not meet its projected capacity needs.
The current Klondike schools are located on two adjacent tracts directly north of Krause’s family’s land, which is wedged between Klondike Road on the west and U.S. Highway 52 on the east.
TSC Superintendent Scott Hanback said in the documents that the school district’s only option is to expand its facilities. The estimated price of construction of the new school is $50 million, according to court documents.
A court found that TSC could legally acquire the land through eminent domain in December and the Krauses filed an appeal in January.
Jane Krause, a professor in the College of Pharmacy and one of the land’s owners, declined an interview but provided a written statement to The Exponent.
“The property has been in our family for 50 years and we (my brothers and I as owners) do not want to sell it,” Krause wrote in her statement.
In their appellants’ brief, the Krauses said stagnant enrollment data actually disproved the argument that KMS and KES are growing.
In September of 1996, KES had just over 1,000 students and KMS had 480, the document states. In September 2020, the quantities were 977 and 431, respectively.
The documents filed by the Krauses also claim that TSC “does not possess plans or architectural drawings for the proposed school and has also not hired a construction firm to build (it).”
Hanback said he is “100% sure TSC will build a new school as soon as possible once land is acquired,” according to court documents.
Krause said that while she thinks TSC lacks any actionable plans, she and her family have plans to develop a “business/medical office park” on the property. Of the approximately 43 acres in dispute, Krause said 20 of them are zoned for “general business” use while the other 23 are zoned “residential.”
“Our business/medical office park development was to be our contribution to the community where we have grown up and lived since the 1970s,” Krause wrote.
Krause said she and her brothers are health-care professionals in the community. Their mother worked as a nurse at Lafayette Home Hospital for 30 years.
In the original ruling in the case, TSC demonstrated its immediate or future need for the land, court documents state. The middle school, which was built in 1976, needs improvements to its heating, ventilation and air conditioning, Hanback said in the documents.
Constructing a new school on the property would also “enable the Klondike schools to use existing utility systems and TSC’s transportation system, gain efficiencies and share the educational resources,” court documents state.
“If additional building space is needed, many ask why Klondike doesn’t build up on their existing 32 acres,” Krause wrote.
Krause said the process, which has so far spanned two years, has been a “sad and extremely disappointing experience.”
“I received a call from a Klondike representative just six weeks after our mother’s passing,” Krause wrote. “In May 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we received notification that Klondike was seizing our entire property through eminent domain.”
Prior to her death, Krause’s mother owned the property and was involved in discussions with TSC regarding the sale of the property, according to court documents.
Once ownership of the land changed hands to Krause and her siblings, Hanback reportedly met with the family to “explain TSC’s development, the enrollment growth of TSC and the expansion need of Klondike schools,” court documents state.
The Krause’s reportedly rejected TSC’s initial offer and have been unable to agree with TSC on a “fair price for the fee simple interest” of the property, per the documents.
Krause said TSC’s eminent domain action will only serve to harm the community financially.
“The result of Klondike’s ‘take’ will be a loss of tax-paying businesses in the community due to the prevention of our development, a loss of employment opportunities which would have been generated by those businesses, and an increase to property taxes,” Krause wrote.
TSC gave no comment outside of official court documents after The Exponent reached out by phone and email.