A suburban Norwood couple who won a fight to keep the government from taking their home to make way for a $125 million complex of offices, shops and restaurants said Friday they were selling to developers because of poor health.
“I want everyone to know that we fought our battle because we deeply believe that it’s wrong for cities to force hardworking people from their homes just so politically connected developers can make money,” Joy Gamble said in a statement released by the Washington-based Institute for Justice, which represented her and her husband, Carl Gamble.
“We fought not just for us, but for every home and small business owner in Ohio and the rest of the country,” she said.
The Gambles, both in their late 60s, were forced to leave their home two years ago but always maintained that they planned to return. In July, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the seizure of their home was illegal because eminent domain – the process by which a government takes private property – had been improperly invoked to acquire land not strictly meant for public use.
Both Gambles have been diagnosed with cancer, the institute said, and Carl Gamble has been hospitalized since December with heart and lung problems. The couple agreed to sell their house to Rookwood Partners, the developer whose offer they had rejected, for $650,000 and to drop litigation regarding damage to the home since they moved out.
The Gambles had lived in the home for 35 years.
“The main thing that’s kept us going these past couple of years is the thought of moving back into our home,” Joy Gamble said. “Now, however, Carl will never be able to go back there because of his health, and I just can’t go back there without him.”
This would never have happened but for Ohio’s now-unconstitutional eminent-domain regime. Incredibly and outrageously, under that law, property owners who wanted to contest the taking of their property had to allow the property to be taken, and then sue to get it back. So the Gambles had to move, and therefore couldn’t be there to maintain the property or to keep it from being vandalized. The Gambles could, and by all rights should, be taking comfort and solace in 35 years of fond memories in their own home as they battle their health problems. That they cannot is disgraceful.
But thanks to the Gambles and the Institute for Justice, this “shouldn’t” happen to anyone else in Ohio. We won’t know for sure until the Ohio legislature hammers out new legislation to replace what has been declared unconstitutional and then gets Ohio governor Ted Strickland to sign it. Strickland is on the record as of about a year ago as being against eminent domain abuse.
The Gambles deserve our prayers, and our gratitude.
UPDATE: NixGuy went to the Enquirer story on the Gambles’ situation. It noted that the $650,000 willing-buyer, willing-seller settlement is “$370,000 more than the value a jury had placed on their property in the early part of the court fight.” If the owners of the other 66 properties who sold had been able to stay in their homes and negotiate or resist, instead of having the obvious duress of having to move until they could contest the eminent domain hanging over them, the developers might have had to (read: SHOULD have had to) pony up another $20 million or so to acquire those properties at fair value.
UPDATE 2: Yes, I realize that Mr. Gamble is currently hospitalized. But if he recovers sufficiently, he might have been able to go back to the couple’s original home.