Eminent domain winners must pay $96,000

By Steve Kemme

A Hamilton County [OH] Court judge ruled Tuesday that the owners of one of the two remaining buildings on the proposed Rookwood Exchange site must repay the developer, Rookwood Partners, $96,062 but are entitled to receive compensation for any damages caused by the developer or Norwood.

In her written decision, Judge Beth Myers said the amount of money the developer or Norwood must pay will be determined after a court hearing concerning compensation. No date has been set for the hearing.

The $96,062 had been withdrawn from money Rookwood Partners had set aside to buy the property in order to pay the mortgage that Sanae Ichikawa-Burton and Matthew Burton owed on their building on the 10-acre site at Edwards and Edmondson roads in Norwood. The Burtons had converted a house into a math and reading learning center.

A court had previously established $500,000 as the purchase price for the Burtons' property.

The Burtons are one of three property owners who successfully challenged Norwood's use of eminent domain to take their properties in last year's landmark Ohio Supreme Court decision. Only two buildings remain standing on the site.

Earlier this year, Joy and Carl Gamble Jr., sold their house to Rookwood Partners, and it was demolished. The Burtons' building and Joe Horney's rental house remain on the site. Both have been vacant for more than two years.

"The court finds that, in order to carry out the Supreme Court ruling, the Burtons are entitled to be placed in the position they were prior to the taking," Myers' decision says.

Bert Gall, an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a Washington-based civil liberties law firm representing the Burtons, said he's pleased with the decision, even though the Burtons must repay the $96,062.

"She did rule that the city of Norwood and Rookwood Partners have to make the Burtons whole for the taking of their property," Gall said. "It's another big win for Ohio home and small-business owners."

But Tim Burke, attorney for Norwood, disagreed with Gall's interpretation.

He pointed out that Myers sided with Norwood and Rookwood Partners in the dispute over whether the Burtons had to repay the money that had been withdrawn for a mortgage payment and ordered a $96,062 lien placed on the property.

"There's no way the Burtons could get their property back and not repay the mortgage money," Burke said.

Gall said the Burtons will comply with the court and repay the $96,062 to Rookwood.

Burke said there's no guarantee that the Burtons will be awarded any money for damages to their property.

Myers said in her decision that she will determine "the amount, if any, to award the Burtons for the temporary taking (of their property)."

Burke said the Burtons should not be paid for damage they caused when removing fixtures and a water heater from the building or for failing to maintain the building after the Ohio Supreme Court returned it to them.

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