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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ind. Law - Hurst bean factory in way of new Colts stadium; in Ohio, a standoff reaches state's highest court

There has been plenty of coverage here in Indianapolis on the question of whether "N.K. Hurst Co. will remain on the southeast corner of the four-city-block site of the new Indiana Stadium," including this John Ketzenberger Indianapolis Star business column from Jan. 5. More from the column:

The issue simmered like a 15-bean soup until last week. That's when the Indiana Stadium and Convention Building Authority sued under the state's eminent domain law.

For a guy who likes to say, "I just sell beans," Hurst has plenty of savvy. He has hired a team that includes prominent eminent domain attorney Nels Ackerson. Ackerson, who ran for Congress here in 1980, is based in Washington but still has a farm in Hamilton County. He won a $7 million settlement in 2002 for more than 600 people in a dispute over railroad rights of way. * * *

The stadium authority is well-armed, too. Prominent PR shop Sease Gerig and Associates, which handled public relations for Victory Field and Conseco Fieldhouse construction, signed on with the state Oct. 1.
And two of the city's most prominent and trusted figures have handled the talks. Authority members David Frick and John Mutz are linked to nearly every major project in Indianapolis for the past 25 years. They have a history of working things out. Yet, as the state's agents in this drama, they are viewed as the bad guys. * * *

The PR battle already has created a sense that the case is headed for the Supreme Court. But there's still room to strike a deal that makes both sides happy.

A new round of talks likely will occur Jan. 13-16; coincidentally, Hurst's first answer to the lawsuit is due Jan. 17. "It's in everybody's interest to get the matter resolved pretty quickly," Ackerson noted.

In Ohio, a case is already at the Supreme Court, as reported today in the Cincinnati Enquirer. Some quotes from the extended report:
The bitter, lengthy legal fight over Norwood's right to take private property for a $125 million retail, residential and office complex resonates far beyond this financially struggling city.

Municipalities, property owners, developers and state lawmakers nationwide are watching to see whether the Ohio Supreme Court sides with Norwood and the Rookwood Exchange developers or with three property owners - an elderly couple who have lived in their house for 35 years, a man with a rental house and a couple who operated a small math and reading center.

The outcome of this three-year legal battle will influence how other Ohio cities use eminent-domain authority to seize property for economic development. It also could provide clues about how eminent-domain laws might change in other states.

On Wednesday, Norwood's eminent-domain case is to take center stage in Ohio's highest court. * * * This is the first eminent-domain case to come before a state supreme court since the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 5-4 decision last year. In Kelo v. New London, the court supported the right of New London, Conn., to use eminent domain to seize homes and businesses to allow a developer to build a hotel, health club and offices.

Beyond establishing economic development as a legitimate reason for eminent domain, the court gave state supreme courts leeway to provide greater protection for private property owners, if they desire.

"The Norwood case will serve as a real indication where states may go in this area," said Scott Bullock, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm in Washington, D.C., that represents the Gambles, Horney and the Burtons. "It will determine whether there will be any meaningful limits on eminent domain in the state of Ohio." * * *

In reaction to last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision, legislators in about 40 states have or will consider changing laws to make eminent domain more difficult to use. Ohio recently placed a one-year moratorium on using eminent domain for economic development while legislators consider changes in state law.

Burke says the Norwood case boils down to a basic dilemma: "How far do you go to respect individual rights in relation to the efforts of a municipality to better the condition of the community as a whole?"

Bullock expressed the same point in a different way.

"Ohio now has a choice as to which direction it'll take," he said. "Will it go toward the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo decision or will it go in a direction that provides real limits on eminent domain authority?"

An eminent domain measure, HB 1010 will be heard in the House Judiciary committee tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 9th, at 10:30 a.m. in the House Chambers.

There is no word that video of this important hearing is going to be made available live on the General Assembly site, but this should be easy enough to do because the hearing is in the House Chambers. And of course, no word that the video record of this hearing is going to be posted online so that citizens who work doing the day may review it later.

See this ILB entry from Nov. 21st, 2005 on Speaker Bosma's promise to expand the House's online video coverage. A check of the General Assembly site where the video is made available (here), however, shows instead that the entire video archive of the 2004 House session has been removed within the past few days. So much for history.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 8, 2006 09:11 AM
Posted to Indiana Government | Indiana Law