Eminent Domain Taking Denied in City of Norwood v. Horney and City of Norwood v. Gamble – I’m Proud to Know Them!

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The Ohio Supreme Court just handed down its decision in the cases of City of Norwood v. Horney and City of Norwood v. Gamble. These are twin eminent domain cases, in which the City of Norwood, in Ohio, decided that it wanted to take property belonging to several families (among them the Horney and Gamble families), in order to use their property to create something of vital importance: two new city-owned parking garages,and a privately-owned mall.

Yes, you read that right. The city planners decided that putting up two city-controlled garages, and letting a developer put in a mall, were important enough to force these people out of their homes – to make them uproot and relocate their families – so that they could knock down their homes and put up their garages and mall.

Oh sure, they would be “justly compensated”, as the law of eminent domain requires, but that is hardly the point, is it?

When the private developer was unable to convince the Gambles, the Horneys, and a few other families – including the Dr. David Dahlmans – to sell out, the City of Norwood went another route. According to the Court, the City of Norwood “hired a consultant to conduct an urban renewal study to determine if current conditions in the Edwards Road Corridor qualified it as a “slum, blighted or deteriorated areaâ€? or as a “deterioratingâ€? area in danger of becoming blighted.”

Because, you see, if they could get the area where the Horney, Gamble and Dahlman homes were situated to be declared deteriorated or deteriorating, then they could take the properties under the doctrine of eminent domain – forcing the families out of their homes whether they wanted to go or not.

The consultant wrote a report in which they found that “while most structures in the target area were sound, other conditions including the neighborhood’s growing isolation from nearby residential areas, traffic safety issues and susceptibility to “piecemealâ€? conversion from residential to commercial uses in the future merited a classification of the area as “deteriorating.â€?

Handy, eh?

Then, the Court explains, “The city planning commission reviewed the consultant’s report and Rookwood’s redevelopment plan, and recommended that Norwood City Council adopt the finding that the area was “deterioratingâ€? and move forward with the Rookwood plan.”

Big surprise, eh? And here’s another big surprise:

The City Council then “held a public hearing at which comment was received from proponents and opponents of the plan. Council members then voted unanimously to adopt the Rookwood plan, and subsequently invoked the city’s eminent domain power to acquire the remaining hold-out properties.”

Uh huh.

Only the “hold outs”, well, held out. And took it to court. And, in fact, took it all the way up to the Ohio Supreme Court. Which overturned a lower court ruling, and stated inequivocally that “an economic benefit to the community alone does not justify government taking of private property.”

Good on ya.

And, in this tiny place called the Internet, through the most amazing of coincidences, I am proud to say that I heard about this from my friend, Dr. David Dahlman.

One of the hold-outs.

David, I am so proud to know you, and of you.

And to you, and anyone who wants to watch a great, heartwarming and funny movie about this very issue, I highly recommend “The Castle”:

Click picture for details:

The Castle

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