Group in Akron for eminent domain fight: Akron OH Beacon Journal, 9/27/07

By John Higgins

A national organization that fights the government taking of private land for private development is in Akron today to inform residents losing their homes in East Akron that it's not too late to fight city hall.

The city wants 20 properties in East Akron for a redevelopment project to entice Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. to stay in Akron. The city currently is negotiating with homeowners about purchase prices and relocation benefits.

Some property owners are unhappy with the city's offers.

''This is a perfect time for the homeowners and the business owners to rally against it if they want to,'' said Christina Walsh, coordinator of the Institute for Justice's Castle Coalition. ''At any point in the process the (City) can back down and decide to protect the property rights of the residents.''

Walsh will be meeting tonight with affected property owners at 7 p.m. at the New Era Restaurant, 10 Massillon Road.

She will share ways that the property owners can mount a grassroots campaign. She said if public pressure doesn't work, the Institute for Justice may take legal action.

The Institute for Justice, based in Arlington, Va., describes itself as the ''nation's only libertarian public interest law firm'' and represented homeowners in the eminent domain case of Norwood v. Horney, which involved a plan to acquire property for a retail complex in suburban Cincinnati.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in that case that governments and agencies cannot take land through eminent domain powers strictly for economic development. The decision did not affect the rights of cities to use eminent domain in urban renewal projects aimed at eliminating blight and preventing the recurrence of blight.

The East Akron properties the city wants to acquire are located within the 644-acre Eastgate Urban Renewal Area that the City Council designated this summer.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has told the city it wants to build new headquarters in Akron, but it wants the industrial surroundings upgraded to complement its investment.

Plans for that redevelopment area include a destination shopping center on the land the city is acquiring, which is a small island of residential dead-end streets branching off Seiberling Street. The area has long been zoned industrial.

Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic told Akron City Council on Sept. 17 that if all goes as planned, the project would be the biggest in Akron since the 1930s, with $200 million in public investments drawing $700 million in private investment.

Plusquellic said that he expects a decision from Goodyear by the end of the year.

Ward 2 Councilman Bruce Kilby, who owns one of the affected properties, and other critics have said the city shouldn't be taking property without a written guarantee from Goodyear that the tiremaker will stay in Akron.

Akron OH Beacon Journal: http://www.ohio.com