By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Ohio is one of the nation's top five abusers of eminent domain, according to the Institute for Justice, a Washington-based Libertarian law firm.
This week, the institute released a report that lambasted Ohio's elected officials for condemning older homes and small businesses so developers can replace them with more attractive projects.
"Ohio cities seem to be on a redevelopment rampage, condemning property for private development and designating perfectly nice areas as blighted in order to authorize condemnation for private development," the report said.
But it's not as though cities condemn properties just because developers ask, said elected officials, developers and attorneys in Greater Cincinnati.
Lawyer Richard Tranter, who represents several developers in the region, was upset to see Norwood mentioned in the report, "Public Power, Private Gain."
He represents two developers who want to build Rookwood Exchange, a $125 million mixed-use project in Norwood, where 79 homes and businesses now stand. City planning commissioners are pursuing a study that could lead to condemnation proceedings.
"My philosophical comment is that the Institute for Justice professes a Libertarian message that is not entirely consistent with the laws of Ohio," said Tranter, noting that governmental bodies can take property when a public purpose and just compensation is involved. Without this power, "communities could be left financially starved or without flexible options to meet the municipal needs of their constituents."
"It's too easy for the pundits to criticize those elected officials who are using eminent domain. Let's be honest. (This report) is self promotion."
Yet critics say that governmental bodies too often use a loose definition of "public purpose" to pursue eminent domain.
"Public Power, Private Gain" reported that governmental bodies across the nation condemned or threatened to condemn 10,200 properties for private parties from 1998 through 2002.
To view the report, visit the Institute's web site, www.ij.org.
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