Institute Challenges More Bogus Blight in Ohio

December 1, 2003

December 2003

Institute Challenges More Bogus Blight in Ohio

By Scott Bullock

Carl and Joy Gamble worked hard their entire lives. Their oasis for more than 34 years has been their well-kept home, with a huge backyard, on Atlantic Avenue in Norwood, Ohio (a city surrounded by Cincinnati). They raised two kids there. When they sold their small, family-owned grocery store in November 2001 and retired, they looked forward to quiet days gardening in their yard and enjoying visits from their now-grown children.

But Cincinnati developer Jeffrey Anderson has different plans for the Gambles and their neighbors. He wants to expand his nearby Rookwood Commons and build ?Rookwood Exchange,? a complex of private office buildings, condominiums and chain stores to replace the homes and locally owned businesses in the Gambles’ neighborhood. Anderson signed contracts to buy many of the properties in the area, but the Gambles and some of their neighbors are not interested in selling. That is when Norwood’s city government became involved.

Because Anderson was unable to obtain some of the homes and businesses in the open marketplace, he asked Norwood’s City Council to pursue an urban renewal study of the area to see if the neighborhood was ?blighted.? Anderson agreed to pay for the study. And, surprise, surprise, the developer-funded study concluded that the neighborhood was blighted.

The so-called urban renewal study for this area is a fraud. The study was done simply because the City wants to use eminent domain to force out property owners who refuse to sell. Even a brief walk or drive through the neighborhood would clearly show that it is not in any way blighted. It is a perfectly fine, middle-class neighborhood filled with well-kept homes and small businesses. Indeed, the study itself admitted that not one of the homes or businesses in the area was dilapidated or delinquent on taxes. Not one.

Unfortunately, that did not stop the Norwood City Council from approving the study in August of this year. The following month, the Institute, on behalf of the Gambles and eight other home and business owners in the neighborhood, filed a lawsuit to overturn the City of Norwood’s bogus blight designation in the neighborhood, thereby preventing the City from condemning these homes and businesses and handing the land over to Anderson.

If this tale sounds a little familiar, it should. As discussed in this issue’s cover story, Lakewood, Ohio, declared a neighborhood very similar to the targeted area in Norwood blighted so that the land can be transferred to private developers, including Jeffrey Anderson, the same developer who stands to profit from the Norwood condemnations. Anderson ought to be particularly ashamed of his involvement in two projects that would remove long-time Ohio residents so that he and his business partners can make more money.

In Norwood, Anderson requested the blight study, he paid for the blight study, and, incredibly, he will now reimburse the City for the costs of the condemnations of the Gambles and their neighbors. The City of Norwood is acting like a private real estate broker, renting out its eminent domain power to the highest bidder. This flagrant abuse of power will be stopped.

Scott Bullock is an IJ senior attorney.

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