In eminent domain, it's law that's flawed: The Cincinnati (OH) Enquirer, 4/4/06

Your Voice

By Dr. David Dahlman

The letter to the editor "City isn't "getting" house; it's stealing" (March 31) brings to light a common misconception with regard to the use of eminent domain. As one of the original "five holdouts" in the Norwood eminent domain case, I am not a friend of the way my or Emma Demasi's property was taken. It violates logic and what we all thought were our private property rights granted by the Constitution. What it doesn't violate is the Ohio law as it stands today, which is heavily weighted in favor of economic development.

Norwood and the city of Cincinnati did not steal my property or Demasi's. In both cases, the law was followed to the letter, and that's why we have a mud hole in Norwood and a soon-to-be wider street in Clifton. Appeals and quick-thinking attorneys can stall projects, but in the end the developers, following the law, will win. Watch for the Ohio Supreme Court to rule in favor of the developers in the Norwood case.

Ohio's Eminent Domain Task Force began hearings in March for the purpose of making a recommendation to the General Assembly as to whether the law in Ohio should be rewritten. In the first draft of their recommendations, it appears they have listened to those of us who described our experience with the taking of our property. They also have listened to our recommendations as to what the new law should say.

Elimination of the use of eminent domain for economic development except in cases of blight appears to where we are headed.

A clear-cut definition of blight is the necessary variable that, properly defined, will eliminate the ability of a developer to take any property they wish. A clear-cut definition of this variable would have negated the taking of the Norwood homes, as they were obviously not blighted. Without the hammer of eminent domain, the developer would have had to negotiate the old-fashioned way.

These recommendations are in no way certain to appear in any new law or constitutional amendment. For that reason, the fight is not over. Lobbying of each legislator is our next step to make sure the new law protects us all from the legal taking of our property by cleverly worded law sponsored by those with a financial stake in the outcome.

Cincinnati Enquirer: http://news.enquirer.com

Dr. David Dahlman is the owner of the Hyde Park Holistic Center, previously located in Norwood.