Eminent domain limits sought: Warren OH Tribune Chronicle, 3/7/07

By Stephen Oravecz

Legislation in the [Ohio] state Legislature could put limits on Warren’s plans to aggressively use eminent domain to acquire blighted property for downtown commercial development.

The sponsor of Senate Bill 7, state Sen. Timothy Grendell, R-Chesterland, said Tuesday that he does not want to stop the use of eminent domain for economic development, but he wants to make its use ‘‘the exception and not the rule.’’

How aggressive Warren can be could come down to the way lawmakers define a blighted property. Grendell said he expects that to be one of the major debates over his bill and for the first time offered his suggestion: Government could take property for development or redevelopment if 90 percent of the parcel is blighted.

To be declared blighted, it must meet three of nine requirements. They include any structure:
  • That’s physical condition presents a public nuisance or attractive nuisance;
  • That an agency has designated as unfit for human habitation;
  • That is a fire hazard or is dangerous;
  • Where the utilities have been disconnected or rendered ineffective;
  • That is abandoned;
  • Other criteria cover trash and rodents, delinquent taxes, uncorrected health or safety code violations, health threats.

Grendell said he would be willing to change the bill to require more than three of the requirements.

The bill adds other protections for property owners trying to fight eminent domain. For instance, it requires a public hearing, it requires appraisals be disclosed to property owners, and it prohibits port authorities or park districts from using eminent domain unless county commissioners or trustees give their approval.

The second bill proposed a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit home rule cities from making their own stricter rules for eminent domain. If approved by voters in November, the state rules would apply to all Ohio cities.

That amendment would not affect the situation in Warren, which is not a home rule city.

Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard, questioned Grendell about who makes the final decision whether a property is blighted. That ruling, Grendell said, would be made by a judge if a property owner challenges the eminent domain action.

Cafaro said she agrees with Grendell that eminent domain laws should apply uniformly through Ohio, but she wants to make sure the final bill is fair to cities such as Warren that need it for redevelopment.

Warren OH Tribune Chronicle: http://www.tribune-chronicle.com