Rockwood Development Finally Underway

Rockwood Development Finally Underway

The Rockwood Exchange development began construction recently in Norwood, Ohio.  The eminent domain battle began in 2005, after 3 property owners, Joy and Carl Gamble Jr., Joe Horney and Sanae Ichikawa-Burton and Matthew Burton, in the small 11-acre neighborhood refused to sell their property.  The city had declared that the neighborhood of about 70 homes and businesses was “blighted.”  

The Rockwood Exchange contended that Norwood was serving the public good by trying to replace a deteriorating neighborhood with a new development that would create jobs, housing and generate badly needed tax revenue.  The property owners challenged the city, contending that Norwood took the property illegally and the neighborhood was not deteriorating or blighted.

The dispute was brought before the Ohio Supreme Court in Norwood Ohio v. Horney.  The Court voted in 2005 to accept jurisdiction in this case, and hear arguments on the underlying legal issue of whether Norwood ‘s actions constituted an unlawful abuse of the city’s eminent domain powers.

In 2006, the court ruled unanimously for the property owners.  The court found that although economic factors may be considered in determining whether private property may be taken, the fact that the taking would provide an economic benefit to the government and community alone does not justify the taking of the property.  The use of “deteriorating area” as a standard for determining whether private property is subject to appropriation is overly vague. 

This was the first eminent domain ruling after the infamous Kelo V. City of New London case where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of New London.  The Court held in a 5–4 decision that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified such redevelopment plans as a permissible “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.