Eminent domain hold-outs give up: Cincinnati OH Enquirer, 3/30/07

By Steve Kemme

Joy and Carl Gamble Jr. have reluctantly decided to give up plans to move back into the home that they spent three years fighting to save from demolition in the landmark Norwood eminent domain battle.

Because of serious health concerns, the Gambles have agreed to sell their house in Norwood to the Rookwood Partners for $650,000 – $370,000 more than the value a jury had placed on their property in the early part of the eminent-domain court fight.

Carl Gamble Jr. has been hospitalized since December for cancer and heart and lung problems, said Bert Gall, attorney for the Institute for Justice, a Washington, D.C., civil-liberties law firm that represented the Gambles and two other property owners for free in the successful fight to stop Norwood from taking their properties through eminent domain.

“The main thing that’s kept us going these past couple of years is the thought of moving back into our home,” Joy Gamble said in a statement released by the institute. “Now, however, Carl will never be able to go back there because of his health, and I just can’t go back there without him.”

The Gambles, who lived in their Norwood home for 35 years, were forced to move out two years ago when a Hamilton County judge ruled in Norwood’s favor. They moved to an apartment in Northern Kentucky.

Last July, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled against Norwood and the developer and ordered the properties returned to the Gambles and two other property owners.

The Rookwood Partners had bought and demolished all but those three properties in a 75-parcel piece of land on 11 acres at Edwards and Edmondson roads when the Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision.

The ruling delighted eminent-domain opponents in Ohio and throughout the nation. It forced Ohio legislators to consider making it more difficult for cities to use eminent domain for economic development.

It was the first eminent-domain case to reach a state supreme court since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 2005 that supported the right of New London, Conn., to take private property for commercial development. But the court said each state could decide how restrictive to make its eminent-domain laws.

In the Norwood case, the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision prevented Rookwood Partners from building a $125 million office-retail-condo development on 11 acres at Edwards and Edmondson roads. The three structures still standing on the large site – the Gambles’ home, the rental home of Joe Horney and the home that Sanae Ichikawa-Burton and Michael Burton converted into a math and reading learning center – are situated so that the Rookwood Exchange could not be built as planned.

Horney and the Burtons, whose houses have been vacant for more than two years, have indicated in recent months that they’re keeping their options open. But they have not agreed to sell, Gall said.

The Rookwood Partners declined to comment on its purchase of the Gambles’ property.

Norwood Mayor Tom Williams said he hopes Horney and the Burtons sell their properties so that the Rookwood Exchange can be built. That development would generate about $2 million a year for Norwood.

“It’s good news for us,” he said of the Gambles’ decision to sell. “I hope it’s a positive indication of things to come.”

Tim Burke, an attorney for Norwood, said the sale of the Gambles’ property “removes one of the roadblocks to seeing that entire area redeveloped.”

Joy Gamble was unavailable for comment Friday because she was at her husband’s side in a hospital, Gall said.

“This is a very difficult time for her,” Gall said.

“The Gambles are true American heroes,” he said. “They took a courageous stand for homeowners and small business owners. Their lasting legacy will be the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision.”

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