City considering eminent domain to obtain home: Hamilton (OH) Journal News, 8/24/05

By Lisa A. Bernard

The fate of a home the city has worked more than 20 years to obtain could be left up to the courts.

The property at 1408 University Boulevard is the final piece of land left to be acquired as part of Hamilton’s efforts to transform what had been 77 acres of blighted housing — and an illegal dumping site — into a complex for commercial and office space known as University Commerce Park.

Since 1982 the city has worked to strike a deal with the property owners — Lois Roberts, Carlos and Dennis Sizemore and Christian Herd — to buy the one-story home which sits on an acre across from Miami University Hamilton and the Vora Technology Park.

In March the city made its final attempt to negotiate with the property owners, offering them $66,000. The price was based on an appraisal conducted by American Research Appraisals, said Chris Xeil Lyons of Hamilton’s economic development department.

“The last time we were in contact with the property owners it was rental property for the family,” said Lyons. “They have never provided an opinion of value or an appraisal to the city, or a counter offer for that matter. They’ve just been unwilling to negotiate.”

Neither the property owners nor their attorney, Robert E. Manley of Cincinnati, could be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Hamilton City Council is set to vote on an ordinance this evening that, if passed, would jump start the use of the city’s eminent domain powers through filing a suit in Butler County Common Pleas Court to acquire the property.

Eminent domain is typically used for government projects such as the construction of roads or other public infrastructure.

However, in a decision recently handed down by the Supreme Court, justices ruled that cities may also use such powers for purposes of economic development.

Whether roads or a commercial development is planned at 1408 University Boulevard has not been determined, officials said.

For more than 25 years, the city has used federal grant dollars to buy up hundreds of lots that had been part of the early-1900s housing development known as Peck’s Addition.

“University Commerce Park is a critical element to the development of that whole area,” said Lyons. “The intent (of redevelopment) has always been to create more jobs and foster economic growth for the city of Hamilton.”

The city recently engaged in an engineering study that reviewed options for extending Grand Boulevard near Pleasant Avenue into the commerce park to create a more convenient east-west connection across the city.

“This property is kind of holding up progress,” Lyons said.

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