Norwood holds off on vote for property law — The Cincinnati Enquirer, 12/29/04

Residents want urban-renewal proposal to be studied further

By Steve Kemme

[The Norwood OH] City Council on Tuesday postponed for two weeks a final vote on a revised urban-renewal ordinance after some residents asked them to take more time to study it.

Council had planned to have the second and third readings Tuesday, but instead passed only the second reading. The ordinance would become law after the third reading.

Critics of the revised ordinance say it would broaden Norwood's power to seize private property and turn it over to private developers.

"We think the process needs to be slowed down so we can have a town hall meeting so people can understand what is changing in the ordinance," said Susan Knox, secretary for a group called Citizens for a Better Norwood.

Council agreed to vote only on a second reading Tuesday after Tim Burke, attorney for Norwood, told them it wouldn't hurt to postpone the final vote for two weeks.

Bert Gall, attorney for the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm in a Washington D.C., that has been fighting Norwood's use of eminent domain for the proposed Rookwood Exchange site on Edwards Road, said the ordinance goes far beyond any urban-renewal ordinance he's seen.

"This law drastically expands the city's power to use eminent domain to transfer its citizens' homes and businesses to private developers," Gall said in a telephone interview before the meeting. "Norwood seems to want to make itself the national poster child for abuse of eminent domain."

But Burke said the revised ordinance mirrors urban renewal ordinances in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland and many Hamilton County suburban communities.

The revision of the 40-year-old ordinance, he said, addresses changes over the past four decades in state law and Norwood's shift from a blue-collar economy to a commercial and white-collar economy.

"The ordinance does not make it any easier for Norwood to acquire property by eminent domain," Burke said.

Norwood has been in a two-year eminent-domain battle with five property owners who don't want to sell to Rookwood Exchange developers.

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