Thursday, April 15, 2004

Developer cites blight study errors

Norwood miscounted 'negative factors'

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Norwood declared a neighborhood blighted on the basis of a study rife with errors, a developer testified Wednesday.

The urban renewal study is a key document in a trial pitting five property owners against Norwood, which wants to use the blight designation to seize the property by eminent domain and transfer it to developers who would tear down the buildings and construct the Rookwood Exchange.

Of 683 negative factors cited in the urban renewal study used to justify declaring the neighborhood blighted, 322 should not have been counted, Dave Phillips, a Minneapolis developer, said in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Phillips appeared in court as an expert witness for the Institute for Justice, which is representing three business owners and two homeowners who don't want to sell their property.

He said the firm hired by Norwood and paid by the developer of Rookwood Exchange to conduct the study counted some negative factors two and three times and exaggerated.

But under cross-examination by Tim Burke, attorney for Norwood, Phillips admitted that noise can be a deteriorating condition, the construction of Interstate 71 created dead-end streets with inadequate turn-arounds, and the widening of Edmondson Road significantly reduced several front yards.

The Miller-Valentine Group and Anderson Real Estate want to build a $125 million retail and office complex, an expansion of the existing Rookwood Commons. Sixty-five homeowners have agreed to sell.

Testimony will continue today. The trial is expected to end Friday.


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