Friday, October 22, 2004

Norwood fight continues

Judge asked to block demolition while owner fights eminent domain

By Sharon Coolidge
Enquirer staff writer

A man who lost his rental home to the city of Norwood is appealing the decision and is asking a judge to stop anyone from destroying it until he exhausts his court battle.

Joe Horney is asking the First District Court of Appeals to determine if a Hamilton County Common Pleas judge was right to allow Norwood to take his rental property - and four other properties - through eminent domain. Horney does not live in the home.

In the meantime, he is asking Common Pleas Judge Beth Myers to allow him and his tenant to stay in the home pending the outcome of the appeal.

Norwood seized the properties and plans to turn them over to Rookwood Partners, which plans to build a shopping and office development.

An order preventing the demolition of Horney's property is important because Ohio law allows the developer to evict property owners provided they are given 90 days notice. That's well before any appeal would likely be finished.

If Horney were to win his appeal, his property could be returned. But Horney fears that by then, his home will be razed.

The Institute for Justice, a Washington-based advocacy group, represents Horney and the four other property owners in their fight.

Horney got the 90-day notice Oct. 8, but the developers have not said when they intend the to break ground on Rookwood Exchange, a $125 million complex of offices, shops, living units and restaurants. The development would sit on a triangular piece of property bounded by Interstate 71 and Edmondson and Edwards road and require demolishing 71 properties. Sixty-five property owners agreed to sell; one sale is pending. Norwood took the other five properties through eminent domain.

"Having met with the majority of the 65 homeowners under contract, there is great anxiety and demand to close immediately, which may require demolishing the Horney property as soon as possible in accordance with law," said Richard Tranter, the developer's lawyer.

Institute for Justice Attorney Bert Gallcountered: "We want the court to keep the status quo."

Myers ruled in June that Norwood could take property belonging to two homeowners and three businesses through eminent domain, paving the way for the city to transfer the property to the developers.

Although she ruled in favor of Norwood, Myers chastised the city, saying it abused its discretion in designating the property blighted. The property might be deteriorating, the judge said, but it does not fit the city's definition of blighted as outlined in city laws - which is the basis of Horney's appeal.

By law, the property owners could not appeal her decision until a jury decided the value of the property. In the first of those hearings, a jury valued Horney's home at $233,000.


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