Senior Citizens Ask Ohio Appellate Court To Save Home from Government Land Grab for Private Profit

John Kramer
John Kramer · March 1, 2005

Washington, D.C.—The fates of senior citizens and homeowners Joy and Carl Gamble and rental homeowner Joe Horney of Norwood, Ohio, are now in the hands of an Ohio appellate court, which will decide whether the Gambles and Joe Horney get their homes back—or whether the City of Norwood may legally condemn and destroy their homes only to hand the land over to developer Jeffrey R. Anderson to expand his $500,000,000 real estate empire.

The Institute for Justice is today filing briefs with the First District Court of Appeals of Hamilton County on behalf of the homeowners in anticipation of oral argument before the court on April 18.

“The trial court was wrong to allow the City of Norwood to condemn our clients’ homes simply to benefit Jeffrey Anderson on the basis of a so-called ‘urban renewal’ study paid for by Anderson,” said Bert Gall, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represents the property owners for free. “The appellate court should stop this outrageous and unconstitutional land grab and return these homes to their rightful owners.”

In its brief, the Institute argues that in labeling the Gambles’ perfectly nice, middle-class neighborhood “deteriorating”—the first step to using eminent domain to take the Gambles’ and other property—the City of Norwood violated both its own municipal code and the U.S. Constitution. The trial court had ruled that while the neighborhood is not “blighted,” it is “deteriorating”—a much weaker standard. Indeed, the City’s definition of “deteriorating” is so expansive that every neighborhood in Norwood—and in Ohio—could be labeled “deteriorating” and thus become vulnerable to being taken through eminent domain whenever a developer like Anderson wants the land.

Moreover, the brief demonstrates that the real purpose of the City’s using eminent domain to take the Gambles’ and Joe Horney’s property was never “urban renewal,” but rather the desire to get eminent domain authority and financing so that Anderson, a politically connected private developer, could build a high-end shopping center. Indeed, it was Anderson who paid for the “study” that declared the neighborhood “deteriorating,” and it is Anderson who is paying the City’s legal fees.

“In doing Anderson’s bidding, the City of Norwood improperly and unconstitutionally delegated its power of eminent domain to a private party,” added Gall. “The City claims it is taking our clients’ homes for ‘urban renewal,’ but that is just a cover. The City has rented out its power of eminent domain, and Anderson is pulling the strings.”