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Blight This, Mofo

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Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, is entering the eminent domain sweepstakes, threatening to knock down a thriving, middle-class neighborhood and give the property over to a private developer who plans to build a $125 million blah blah blah complex. Reports the Cincinnati Enquirer:

City officials are considering designating the neighborhood "blighted" as a prelude to eminent domain—a government move that would force residents out so work can start on Rookwood Exchange, a $125 million complex of offices, apartments, condos, shops and restaurants.

Governmental bodies can take land by eminent domain for public uses including new roads, municipal buildings and public garages. They also can invoke eminent domain over areas deemed blighted. Property owners are supposed to be paid market value, and the public is supposed to benefit when neighborhoods are cleaned up.

Increasingly, however, cities, villages and state agencies have been trying to use their eminent domain powers to displace residents for commercial developments that include shopping centers, movie theaters and office towers. People don't understand how these developments possibly could be considered public uses.

The most disturbing quote in the story belongs to a developer who avers:

"I think more than anything, that you'd want to look at the highest and best use of the area. With the amount of traffic … the best use of the property is no longer single-family residential."

Sez you, buddy. More than anything, you'd want a developer to either offer enough money to get people to move or else site your development elsewhere.

On the up side, it's good to see the Cincy area get in the news for something other than anti-hotel-room porn crusades, police brutality, loss of population and jobs, and for having the only NFL franchise that would struggle against a Pop Warner team.

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  1. s.m., I believe you’ll find the “Reasoners” quite consistent on this issue. The interesting aspect of condemning a middle class community is how strongly it belies the claim of “blight.”

    Here in Denver they’re planning to bulldoze this whole complex of distinctly Asian stores, including two big, way cool Asian grocery stores, for the benefit of that struggling underdog Wal-Mart. When I first saw the headline out of the corner of my eye, I assumed Wal-Mart bought the property fair and square, and I sighed sadly. When I eventually learned that it was the city that was kicking out the ethnic shops, DAMN that got me mad! There’s been a lot of protest, don’t know if we’ve gotten it stopped, probably not….

    BTW, I think it’s often overlooked how much more such condemnations affect renters who usually aren’t compensated much if at all for having to hit the road. I suppose that’s one of the reasons it’s better to own than rent, but still, these renters don’t deserve this bad fortune if they can and do pay their rent to property owners who would gladly take it.

  2. Hear, hear. It will also be nice to see you folks getting equally outraged when the same thing happens to fully-occupied poor neighborhoods and mobile home parks.

    Speaking of which, you wouldn’t happen to know the outcome of the eminent-domain attempt about a year and a half ago in Westchester County, NY, in New Rochelle or Pehlam or thereabouts, where the city wanted to clear out a blue-collar neighborhood of small single-family homes to make way for a Home Depot?

  3. I am replying to Nick Gillespie comment regarding Norwood’s attempt to pave the way for homeowners to paved over by Jeffery Anderson Real Estate’s Rookwood Exchange. Norwood’s City Council has voted and are in the process of a hurried second and third reading formality to declare this wedge of terrority as blighted so the Rookwood Exchange complex can be built. This area of Norwood, where my parents live, never achieved any kind of attention or noterity and has flourished as the kind of neighborhood Norwood could be proud of. That all changed with Jeffery Anderson scraped away part of the neighborhood to build Rookwood Commons and now wants to fasten it with an office complex. He wants the city council to declare the area blighted and is even financing the study, which can have only one conclusion – slum infested, public nusiance, unfit for any human habitation, except for an office building. This is an abusive, intrusive use of the Emminent Domain powers, but what the heck, the council is more than willing to auction off Norwood just for the big bucks.

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