Not Blighted, But One Day It Might Be


Today the Ohio Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a challenge to the use of eminent domain for private development in a well-kept neighborhood of Norwood that the city (following the cue of the developer who wants the land) describes as "deteriorating." One of the criteria for that designation is "diversity of ownership," meaning too many individually owned homes and businesses. The definition "could include virtually every neighborhood in Ohio and the nation," says Dana Berliner of the Institute for Justice, which is challenging the project on behalf of three property owners.

This is the most important state eminent domain case since the U.S Supreme Court last year upheld condemnations for private development in Kelo v. New London. The Ohio Supreme Court has declared that "the power of eminent domain may not be exercised merely or primarily to take private property for private purposes," and it has never ruled on the condemnation of "deteriorating," as opposed to "blighted," property. A victory for the owners would provide further evidence that state courts are prepared to interpret state constitutions so as to curtail eminent domain abuse, meaning that new legislation is not the only solution to the land grabs encouraged by Kelo.