Saturday, May 1, 2004

Rookwood backers, opponents file briefs

Argument is about 'eminent domain'

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Does Norwood have the right to take private property needed for a developer's planned outdoor mall? Proponents and opponents presented arguments in written statements submitted Friday to Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.

Attorneys for five property owners who don't want to sell say Norwood acted illegally in declaring the neighborhood blighted and trying to seize the property.

Timothy Burke, attorney for Norwood, said in his statement that the tax revenue from Rookwood Exchange will be critical to the financially struggling city. Norwood is facing a $3.5 million deficit.

If Norwood can't use eminent domain to take property, "Norwood will suffer as a community, and those many residents of the area who want to move on will be left struggling in a neighborhood that time has passed by."

Some time after oral arguments May 20, Judge Beth Myers will decide whether Norwood has the legal right to use eminent domain to seize the five properties for urban renewal. She also will decide if the city's procedure for seizing the properties is constitutional.

The object of this legal battle is a triangular piece of land bordered by Interstate 71, Rookwood Commons, Edwards Road and Williams Avenue.

The developers, Anderson Real Estate and the Miller-Valentine Group, want to demolish all the homes and businesses in that area and build the Rookwood Exchange, a $125 million complex of offices, shopping and residences.

Two private homeowners and three businesses, with free legal representation from the Institute of Justice, a non-profit group in Washington, D.C., are challenging Norwood's action. Sixty-five of 71 property owners in the proposed development site want to sell their homes to the developers. One business owner is negotiating with the developers.


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