Eminent domain ruling due next month: Cincinnati OH Enquirer, 8/21/07

Attorneys argued in court Tuesday over how much one of the victors in the Norwood eminent domain case should be compensated for damage to the house they had converted into a math and reading learning center.

Attorneys for Norwood and the Rookwood Partners said Sanae Ichikawa-Burton and Matthew Burton must pay back the $96,000 that had been withdrawn from money the Rookwood Partners had set aside to buy their property.

Attorneys for the Burtons argued that Norwood and Rookwood Partners are responsible for damage to the former learning center approximately equal to the $96,000 withdrawal.

Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Beth Myers said she will issue a written ruling no later than Sept. 25.

The attorneys for the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, which is representing the Burtons, participated in the hearing by conference call.

Bad weather had caused their flight from Washington, D.C., to Cincinnati to be cancelled.

More than a year ago, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Norwood had illegally seized the property of the Burtons and two other parties on the proposed Rookwood Exchange site at Edwards and Edmondson roads in Norwood. The court ordered the properties returned to the owners.

Since then, the Rookwood Partners bought and demolished the former home of Joy and Carl Gamble Jr.

The only remaining structures on the 11-acre site are Burtons’ former learning center and Joe Horney’s rental house. Both have been vacant for more than two years.

Rookwood Partners owns the rest of the site, but it hasn’t built the planned Rookwood Exchange office, retail and condo development because of the presence of the two remaining buildings.

Before the Ohio Supreme Court’s landmark decision last year, Rookwood Partners had placed $500,000 in a court-controlled account to buy the Burtons’ parcel.

With the permission of Common Pleas Court, a bank withdrew $96,000 from Rookwood Partners’ account to cover the mortgage owed on the property by the Burtons.

Tim Burke, attorney for Norwood, and Brian Pacheco, attorney for Rookwood Partners, said the Burtons should repay the $96,000 and $14,000 in interest.

Bert Gall, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, said the Burtons should be compensated for damage to the property since Norwood seized it and turned it over onto the Rookwood Partners more than two years ago.

They also said the Rookwood Partners should pay taxes due on the property and lost potential rent money.

“The Burtons simply want to be made whole,” Gall said.

But Tim Burke said the Burtons caused damage to the walls and ceilings when they removed light fixtures and the water heater from the former learning center.

“The Burtons have had ownership of the property for about 11 months,” Burke said. “They have done nothing until very recently to put it back into a habitable condition.”

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