Bloomington Mayor Hamilton Faces Dispute Over Sale of Donated Land for Police Headquarters

Staff report

Bloomington, Indiana – November 30, 2023

A dispute has arisen in Bloomington as the City plans to sell real estate donated by families, including the Hill family, for the establishment of a public park, which currently houses the Bloomington Police Department.

Mayor John Hamilton expressed gratitude to the Hill family for their enduring generosity to the City over multiple generations. However, tensions come to public attention after Philip Hill, a descendant of the land donors, opposed the City’s intention to sell the property for private use.

In a letter delivered to Mayor Hamilton’s office on November 28, 2023, Philip Hill, a member of the family that deeded the land, highlighted the historical significance of the donated real estate. He emphasized that the land was part of the original 3rd Street Park, donated by their ancestors and other families to establish a public space for the city’s residents.

“The purpose of the gift was to establish a City Park,” Hill wrote. “Our family has been and continues to be pleased with the use of the real estate as a park.”

Hill expressed dismay upon learning about the City’s plans to sell the property, emphasizing the community-centric usage of the space by various organizations and citizens. He pointed out that the deed may contain a “Reversion Clause,” indicating that if the land is no longer used for public purposes, it should revert to the original donors or their heirs.

“We are not in favor of this sale or private use,” Hill asserted. “The intent of the donors should be honored, and the public should have the benefit of the donation.”

Angela Van Rooy, the Interim Communications Director for the City of Bloomington’s Office of the Mayor, clarified the City’s stance on the matter. She acknowledged the historical donation but indicated the City’s conclusion that selling the Police Headquarters land aligns with the original donation’s terms.

“The issue of whether the City can sell the Police Headquarters was reviewed last year,” Van Rooy stated. “The City has no plans for how the land would be used, should such a sale take place.”

The City’s intent to build a new police and fire department headquarters at another location at the Showers property near the current location of City Hall, was disclosed in a press release. last November. The $34 million public safety plan includes allocating $23.5 million to construct the new facility at Showers, a site the City agreed to purchase for $8.75 million. The plan has been opposed by the by the local police union:

During the previous year, FOP President Paul Post expressed apprehension about the layout of the floor lobby space designated for relocating the police to the Showers building. He voiced concerns that the centralized area might potentially become overcrowded.

Post highlighted the issue, stating, “The current expansive white space functioning as the lobby poses safety concerns. We don’t require an excessively large area where 50-75 people can congregate freely.”

The full text of the letter:

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