10/21/2004

Nonprofit firm appeals Norwood eminent domain decision — (Cincinnati OH) Business Courier, 10/21/04

By Lisa Biank Fasig

A nonprofit law firm today appealed a county court decision that allowed the City of Norwood to forcibly acquire a rental property to make way for a mixed-use development.

The Institute for Justice also asked Hamilton County Court to halt any possible development of the property while the ruling is in appeal.

The Institute filed the appeal on behalf of John Horney, whose rental property, on Atlantic Avenue, is among five hold-out business and personal properties deemed as blighting. As such, Hamilton County Court Judge Beth Myers in June gave the city clearance to acquire the properties, so they can be redevelolped.

Sixty-six others have agreed to sell their properties to make way for Rookwood Exchange, a proposed mixed-use development of offices, rental properties and retail. It is being developed by Rookwood Partners, a partnership of Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate and Miller-Valentine Group.

The hold-out property owners, including Horney, vowed to appeal the June ruling, but could not do so until after attending jury hearings to determine fair compensation for their property.

Horney's hearings took place the week of Sept. 20, with the jury awarding a property value of $233,000.

The next hearings are scheduled for Oct. 25, for Joy and Carl Gamble, the only homeowners who are holding out.

After the Horney hearing, the city made the required deposit for the property, obtained the court order, and the title of property was transferred to Norwood, said Timothy Burke, an attorney representing the city.

"The city of Norwood has since that time transferred the title to Rookwood Partners," Burke said. "They took title subject to the fact that Horney, his wife and tenants are entitled to a 90-day notice, which has been given.

"We're going to comply with the law," Burke said, "and actually, we don't own the property anymore, the developer does."

This is one of the issues the Institute for Justice is taking up.

"They transferred the property so quickly," said Bert Gall, an attorney with the Institute who is working on the appeal. "We think that's an attempt to frustrate the appellate process."

The Institute, whose hearings were with the city, is now seeking to bring Rookwood Partners into the case, since the developer now has control of Horney's property.

"What we're asking for is really quite reasonable," he said. "Since Rookwood is the owner, they have to be party to the process, because to stop it, they have to stop them."

He said the Institute will file appeals on behalf of the other property owners as well, when the time comes.


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