Ohio Appeals Court Protects Business From Eminent Domain Destruction

John Kramer
John Kramer · March 29, 2005

Washington, D.C.—Thanks to the Ohio courts, another business in Norwood, Ohio, has been protected as the owners fight to save their properties from eminent domain abuse. Last Friday (March 25, 2005), the First District Court of Appeals of Hamilton County barred Rookwood Partners—the development group spearheaded by local developer Jeffrey Anderson—from “destroying, or otherwise altering” the building which houses Sanae Ichikawa Burton’s small tutoring business, the Kumon Math and Reading Center. Mrs. Burton and her husband, Matthew, have owned the building, which is in the Edwards Road area of Norwood, since 2000.

Along with other property owners in the area, they have been fighting to save their property from the City of Norwood’s attempt to seize it through eminent domain so that Anderson can use it to build a private shopping center/condominium complex. Although the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas allowed this unconstitutional land-grab to occur, the First District Court of Appeals is hearing the case on appeal. Its order from this past Friday ensures that, for now, Anderson cannot harm the math and reading center. On February 22, the Ohio Supreme Court issued similar orders to protect the properties of Joy and Carl Gamble, and Joe Horney.

“I’m very pleased that Jeffrey Anderson cannot bulldoze the math and reading center while Matthew and I continue to fight to save it,” said Sanae. “It was wrong for the City of Norwood to take away my business for Anderson’s benefit; it would have been worse if Anderson could have torn it down before our appeal is heard.”

She continued, “I hope that Anderson will do the right thing and not force us from the building while our appeal is being considered. Moving would cause tremendous hardship to me and the families I serve.”

In other related news, the Ohio Supreme Court yesterday dismissed—at the City’s request—Norwood’s appeal of a decision from the First District Court of Appeals that went in favor of other Norwood home and business owners who were challenging the City’s designation of the Edwards Road area as “blighted” and “deteriorating.” The properties of these four home and business owners are not currently slated to be a part of Rookwood’s project, but the City’s designation means that the City can take their property at any time it wants.

“The City made the right choice in dismissing its appeal and the First District Court of Appeals correctly ruled that, under Ohio law, home and business owners do not have to spend years in limbo waiting to challenge a bogus ‘blight’ or ‘deteriorating’ designation until the City tries to take their property,” said Bert Gall, staff attorney at the Institute for Justice, which represents the property owners for free. “This action by the Ohio Supreme Court means it will not reverse that decision.”