Judge hears Norwood eminent domain case — The Cincinnati Post, 11/25/04

By Kimball Perry

A judge must decide if a Norwood house should be razed to make way for a commercial and residential development, or whether the former owner can appeal a court ruling that awarded the home to the city under its eminent domain laws.

"The point has been that our clients want to keep their property," attorney Bert Gall told Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Beth Myers in a Wednesday hearing.

But attorneys for Norwood and the development countered that the building no longer belongs to Joseph Horney and he should have no say in what happens to it.

Gall -- and his employer, the Institute of Justice, a Washington, D.C.-based agency fighting eminent domain cases across the country -- represents Horney.

Horney is one of five Norwood property owners who refused to sell their property to developer Jeffery Anderson so he could build Rookwood Exchange, a proposed development in the Edwards Road corridor for 200 condominiums or apartments, retail space and 550,000 square feet of office space.

"(Horney's attorneys) say you can have the right to own the property but not the right to use it as you see fit," said attorney Mark VanderLaan, representing the development.

Horney and four other property owners fought Norwood's attempt to take their homes, using eminent domain laws to perform urban renewal on an area Norwood deemed blighted. That was a move the property owners believed was Norwood lending its government power of land seizure to benefit the developer.

Norwood officials insist the move is desperately needed for the financially strapped city, noting it needs the $1.8 million in annual earnings tax the project would add to city coffers as well as the $300,000 per year it would raise for Norwood schools.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Beth Myers ruled in June that Norwood could take the property and ordered property valuations trials to determine how much Norwood should pay for each property.

In September, Horney was awarded $233,000 for his property, which he rents out to two tenants. Within days, Norwood placed $233,000 in an account controlled by the Clerk of Courts and then deeded the property to the developer.

Horney wants to appeal that decision but the developer, Norwood and their attorneys, insist that because Horney no longer legally owns the property there is nothing to appeal.

The judge said she would consider Wednesday's arguments and make a ruling at an undetermined future date.

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