Landowners challenging the use of eminent domain for economic development in Norwood, Ohio have emerged victorious. According to a unanimous Ohio Supreme Court, the economic benefits of redevelopment projects, by themselves, do not satisfy the "publc use" requirment of Article I, section 19 of the Ohio Constitution. The Court further held that the relevant standard for a blight designation — a "deteriorating area" — was void for vagueness and also unconstitutional.
UPDATE: How Appealing rounds up some more early coverage here. The Institute for Justice, which represented the homeowners challenging the use of eminent domain in this case (as well as in Kelo), has background on the case here.
FURTHER UPDATE: Here is how the court describes its holdings:
We hold that although economic factors may be considered in determining whether private property may be appropriated, the fact that the appropriation would provide an economic benefit to the government and community, standing alone, does not satisfy the public-use requirement of Section 19, Article I of the Ohio Constitution.FINAL UPDATE (FOR NOW): Based upon a quick read of the opinion, this seems to be quite a resounding victory for opponents of eminent domain. It also seems to me that this opinion relies upon (or at least cites to) academic commentary far more extensively than the typical Ohio Supreme Court opinion. Indeed, it is not every day that one sees an opinion issued by any court that cites both Richard Epstein and Edith Wharton!
We also hold that the void-for-vagueness doctrine applies to statutes that regulate the use of eminent-domain powers. Courts shall apply heightened scrutiny when reviewing statutes that regulate the use of eminentdomain powers. Applying that standard, we find that Norwood's use of "deteriorating area" as a standard for appropriation is void for vagueness. We further hold that the use of the term "deteriorating area" as a standard for a taking is unconstitutional because the term inherently incorporates speculation as to the future condition of the property to be appropriated rather than the condition of the property at the time of the taking.
Finally, we hold that the provision in R.C. 163.19 that prohibits a court from enjoining the taking and using of property appropriated by the government after the compensation for the property has been deposited with the court but prior to appellate review of the taking violates the separation-of-powers doctrine and is therefore unconstitutional. We further hold that the unconstitutional portion of R.C. 163.19 can be severed from the rest of the statute, and, accordingly, the remainder of the statute remains in effect.
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