Friday, April 16, 2004

Planner testifies Norwood area in decline

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

If the Rookwood Exchange is not built, living conditions will worsen for residents of the Norwood neighborhood that the $125 million complex is supposed to replace, an urban planner testified Thursday.

The noise and traffic congestion has increased dramatically in Norwood's Edwards Roadcorridor since the construction of Interstate 71 more than 30 years ago, said Clete Benken, an associate with the urban planning firm of Kinzelman Kline Gossman.

"It's reasonable to assume that the quality of the neighborhood will continue to deteriorate if Rookwood Exchange isn't built," he said in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Benken said that the Edwards Road corridor urban renewal study that his firm conducted for Norwood does not call the neighborhood "blighted."

"We felt Norwood City Council should determine that," he said.

Two homeowners and three business owners, aided by the Institute for Justice, are challenging Norwood's attempt to seize their property by eminent domain.

City Council has declared the neighborhood blighted so that it could transfer the area to the developers of the Rookwood Exchange, a planned expansion of Rookwood Commons.

Attorneys for the Institute for Justice have argued that the neighborhood doesn't meet the legal criteria for "blighted" status.

Sixty-five homeowners in the neighborhood want to sell their property to the developers and move out. They're angry at the intervention of the Institute of Justice, which is representing the holdouts at no cost.

Benken said the neighborhood has been declining since I-71 was built.

He used aerial photographs from 1969 and 2001 to show how radically the neighborhood has been changed by I-71 and encroaching commercial development.

Jack Pflum, a traffic engineer and urban planner, testified that the noise level is getting worse in areas bordering the neighborhood.

"(The Rookwood Exchange) will make it a better place for the community as a whole," he said.

The trial is expected to end today.


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