Church sues state over Hoosier Heartland project

An Indiana church is taking the state to court in hopes of surviving the aftermath of a massive highway project.


An Indiana church is taking the state to court in hopes of surviving the aftermath of a massive highway project.

The Hoosier Heartland corridor, which will expand State Road 25 to four lanes from Lafayette to Fort Wayne, runs right through the land currently occupied by Delphi Pentecostal Church.

The church pastor knows they have to move, but he said they're not getting enough compensation to do so.

"Scripture says patience is a virtue," said Pastor Tim Stewart. "Sometimes it's hard to be virtuous in a time like this because you get beside yourself."

Stewart said he could have been beside himself after finding out that his church and its expansive fellowship hall are in the path of the new State Road 25, but he insists it's not what's tried his patience.

"We're willing to accept it," Stewart said. "We just can't put up a building for anything close to what they've offered."

INDOT appraised the church and offered $535,000 for the congregation to relocate. The church sought two appraisals of its own, which found the property to be worth between $1.8 and $2.6 million, not including land.

"It's pretty awkward," Stewart said.

Pretty awkward because after a discrepancy like that, the church took INDOT to court. Though the department won't comment on ongoing litigation, a spokesperson said it's not personal.

"When there's a dispute like this we also have to have to be good stewards of the taxpayer's dollars," said Jim Pinkerton, spokesperson for the INDOT Laporte District. "We want to represent that interest that the taxpayers of Indiana have as well, so we might err, you know, on the side of caution."

Stewart said his congregation is full of taxpayers who stand to lose a lot if the state's offer stands.

"We can get one floor and another 20 feet in length," Stewart said. "Forget the basement, forget the gymnasium, forget the outer buildings, forget the pavement. I didn't think that was quite adequate."

For now, he simply hopes the congregation's patience pays off.

"Our future is in the hands of God," Stewart said. "We know he knows where we're supposed to be and how it's supposed to accommodate where we're going so we keep praying."

The decision is soon in the hands of a judge. An independent appraisal is due to the court by Friday. The judge then has 20 days before issuing a final decision.

Either way, the church has been told it will likely need to be out of its current location by the end of March.




Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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