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Sunday, April 18, 2004

'Holdouts' holding neighbors hostage



By Donna M. Laake
Guest columnist

A Feb. 25 column in USA Today about the proposed Norwood development, titled "Curtail for-profit land grabs," implied that the neighborhood was declared "blighted" because its homes didn't have two-car garages or two bathrooms. That is absurd. As a homeowner in the process, I know garages and bathrooms were not even factors in the study.

AN 'EMINENT' DEBATE
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Eminent domain a tool of last resort
Changing standards shape field of eminent domain
'Holdouts' holding neighbors hostage
Why isn't my business good for Norwood?

If the writer had bothered to visit the area, it would have witnessed the traffic jams, lights shining into yards from neighboring businesses, and the noise and pollution from tens of thousands of cars. If the writer had looked at a map of Norwood, he would have seen how Interstate 71 has cut our neighborhood off from the rest of the city and has dead-ended narrow streets, making emergency vehicle access much more difficult. Some of the lots are so under- sized that they have no front yards.

For those interested in the facts, we offer the following:

• Sixty-five of 71 homeowners in the area have signed contracts for above market value. Five of the six "holdouts" are businesses. We want to get on with our lives and stop being held hostage by the Institute for Justice, which supports the holdouts.

• Some families have left, leaving houses empty or as rentals.

• The proposed development area is surrounded by businesses. The remaining streets are an island like the eye of a hurricane.

• Norwood held numerous hearings over a year and listened to all sides before taking action.

• The taking of property has been used in Cincinnati to build stadiums and for many urban renewal projects. It is legal to take property when it is for the greater public good and compensation is paid.

• Norwood is facing a $3.5 million deficit. Urban renewal lets Norwood, typical of "rust belt" communities, survive by solving its urban ills.

• The Institute for Justice is a Washington lobbying group using this project to further its cause. When they lose this case, they will simply walk away and go to the next project that will bring them publicity, without a thought to the cost and anguish they have caused me, my neighbors and my community.

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Donna M. Laake is the owner of a property in the proposed Rookwood Exchange project area. She is one of the 65 homeowners who have signed contracts to sell their properties; more than a dozen of them co-signed this letter.




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