In the state’s first challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision last June, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled yesterday that “cities may consider economic benefits, but that courts deciding such cases in the future must ‘apply heightened scrutiny’ to assure private citizens’ property rights.”
Relative to Kelo, the Ohio Court noted that “although it determined that the federal constitution does not prohibit (eminent domain takings for economic developments), [the U.S. Supreme Court] acknowledged that property owners might find redress in state courts and legislatures, which remain free to restrict such takings pursuant to state law and constitutions.” Ohio’s response to that invitation was unanimously passing SB 167 (2005), imposing a state moratorium on eminent domain takings until the end of this year, and the creation of a 25-member task force to study the issue.
Noteworthy in this case is the Court’s recognition that although there have been similar cases before it, it has “never been asked whether a city may appropriate property that it has determined is in an area that may deteriorate in the future.”
The Court acknowledged that eminent domain was “a balancing of two competing interests of great import in American democracy: the individual’s right in the possession & security of property, and the sovereign’s power to take it for the benefit of the community” – further, recognizing that “appropriation cases often represent more than a battle over a plot of cold sod in a farmland pasture or the plat of municipal land on which a building sits. For the individual property owner, the appropriation is not simply the seizure of a house. It’s the taking of a home—the place where ancestors toiled, where families were raised, where memories were made…”
[Ohio Supreme Court’s summary]