Lakewood, OH, Eminent Domain

Saleet v. City of Lakewood
IJ Defeats Eminent Domain Abuse in Lakewood, Ohio

Jim and JoAnn Saleet were among the heroic homeowners who refused to bow to the government’s demand that they give up their homes to make way for a private development.

Lakewood, Ohio’s official motto is “The City of Homes.” Yet the City sought to take away through its power of eminent domain the homes of many residents not for a public use, but for private development—specifically, for high-end shopping and upscale condos. Among those who would have been kicked out were Jim and JoAnn Saleet, residents of Lakewood since 1965. The Saleets’ dream home on Gridley Street is located in a cozy neighborhood with a backyard that has a breathtaking view of the valley.

Despite the beauty of the Saleets’ home and neighborhood, Mayor Madeline Cain and the City of Lakewood declared the area “blighted” as a pretext for eminent domain—where the government takes private property for public use with just compensation. Many of the homes were declared blighted for such petty reasons as they don’t have an attached two-car garage or they have less than two full bathrooms. (If these standards were applied to the homes of Mayor Cain and the City Council members, they, too, would have to be declared blighted, but no such threat loomed over their homes.)

The justification the City had offered for the takings was that a new development would create more jobs and taxes, but keep this in mind: anyone’s home or small business would generate more taxes as a shopping mall. If that can justify such takings, then literally no home or business would be safe from this kind of abuse at the hands of government.

The Institute for Justice took on the City on behalf of the Saleets and their neighbors, filing suit on May 19, 2003 in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas.  IJ also joined with grassroots activists in Lakewood to fight these takings through two ballot initiatives; in November 2003, Lakewood voters rejected the development plan that would have taken the West End neighborhood and in March 2004, the voters rescinded the blight designation, which would have allowed the City to take the homes.

IJ’s victory on behalf of the Lakewood residents was a victory for property rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Essential Background


Backgrounder: Ohio’s “City of Homes” Faces Wrecking Ball of Eminent Domain Abuse, Homeowners Challenge Bogus “Blight” Designation

Client Photo - none available

Client Video - none available


Latest Release: Institute for Justice and Homeowners Agree to Dismiss Lawsuit Against City of Lakewood After Defeating Bogus “Blight” Label (March 19, 2004)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

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Launch Release: Institute for Justice and Lakewood Homeowners File Lawsuit Challenging Bogus “Blight” Designation (May 19, 2003)


Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


May 19, 2003

Court Filed:


Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas

Key Dates:


November 4, 2003:  Lakewood voters rejected development plan



March 2, 2004:  Voters lift blight designation over West End neighborhood



March 19, 2004:  Property Owners & IJ dismiss case



Case Completed; Victory for Property Owners & IJ

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Lakewood Voters Pass Issue 10: Eminent Domain Abuse Nightmare Finally Over for Property Owners (March 3, 2004)

MAP: State Supreme Court Rulings On Eminent Domain for Private Development

Media Advisory: Fight Bogus 'Blight' Rally (January 30, 2004)

IJ’s first-ever nationwide census of eminent domain abuse:  Public Power, Private Gain

Media Advisory: Residents of Lakewood’s West End and other concerned citizens (January 5, 2004)


Release: Lakewood Homeowners Score First-Round Victory In Case Against Eminent Domain Abuse (July 1, 2003)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Beating Bogus “Blight” in Lakewood, Ohio Liberty & Law (April 2004)

Media Advisory: IJ and Lakewood Homeowners To File Lawsuit Challenging Bogus “Blight” Designation and Lakewood Homeowners Protest Development Agreement (May 19, 2003)

Article: Fight Against Blight Continues in Ohio Liberty & Law (February 2004)

Article: 7 Days and 60 Minutes; Institute Earns Property Rights Triumphs In Rapid Succession Liberty & Law (December 2003)

Transcript: CBS, 60 Minutes: Eminent Domain; government forcing people from their private property to make way for redevelopment (September 28, 2003)

Article: Think Your Home is Yours?  Liberty & Law (August 2003)

Did you know? How is "Blight" defined in Lakewood? Liberty & Law (August 2003)

Article: The Washington Post: In Ohio, a Test for Eminent Domain (June 22, 2003)

Article: NBC Nightly News: Governments abuse right of eminent domain when they take property for retail development (May 15, 2003)

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