Flats eminent domain battle set: Crain's Cleveland OH Business, 8/30/06

By Jay Miller

The legal battle that’s likely to determine the fate of the East Bank of the Flats is set to begin Sept. 25 in Cuyahoga County Probate Court.

Probate Judge John E. Corrigan set the date for the opening round in the eminent domain case over land in the Flats that is part of a massive retail and residential redevelopment project.

That first hearing will be procedural — to decide whether 13 eminent domain cases filed by the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority against Flats property owners should be heard as a single case.

The Port Authority is pursuing eminent domain after property owners rejected the city-county agency’s offers for their land. The authority wants the land so it can sell it to the Wolstein Group and the developer can begin work on its $230 million Flat East Bank residential and retail project.

Regardless of whether the cases are consolidated, they are an early test of the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent Norwood decision, which tightened the requirements government must meet before it takes property through eminent domain.

Attorney Steven S. Kaufman, one of the attorneys representing the Port Authority, said to the judge that Norwood changed nothing about the law of taking property in eminent domain. He said it only advised judges to “take a closer look” at the way government handled eminent domain.

However, Judge Corrigan suggested that he was paying attention to the Norwood case, if only because of its newness; the decision was handed down in late July. But, he said, restating existing law on eminent domain, property owners are entitled to full and just compensation for their property.

Judge Corrigan set aside three days for the September hearing, but some of the parties said they thought the issues could be presented in one day or less.

Crain's Cleveland OH Business: http://www.crainscleveland.com