USA Today has an article discussing the Norwood eminent domain case. Regular readers of this website know by now that the Ashbrook Center (along with former State Representative William Batchelder) filed a brief in Norwood arguing that the Ohio Constitution prohibits using eminent domain in a non-blighted area to transfer property from one private owner to another. Of course, that is the relevant legal question raised by the Norwood case: May local governments in Ohio take non-blighted private property for the purpose of transferring it to another private owner?
We know from prior cases that the Ohio Constitution permits the taking of property in blighted areas. The longstanding rule in Ohio is that the elimination of slum and blight can constitute a public use where the primary purpose for the taking is to serve the public welfare. We also know, however, that actual blight is a prerequisite to using eminent domain for the purposes of urban renewal. Thus, the Ohio Supreme Court has allowed condemnation where structures are substandard and are “detrimental to the public health, safety, and welfare.”
This contrasts sharply with the homes at issue in Norwood. None of those properties is dilapidated. As you can see at this link, the disputed homes are part of a perfectly normal middle class neighborhood. Indeed, as the Ashbrook Center notes in its brief, the trial court found that the City of Norwood abused its discretion in labeling the area “blighted.”
USA Today, which states that “the neighborhood doesn’t appear blighted,” is merely confirming the obvious. According to the article, Joseph Horney purchased his Norwood home for $63,900 in 1991. The home is currently valued at more than $230,000. I wish we all lived in areas that were “deteriorating” so rapidly.