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Ohio court says city can’t use ‘quick-take’ to seize property

By   /   November 3, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

1851 Center for Constitutional Law

DENIED: An Ohio judge ruled the city of Perrysburg cannot use a “quick-take” eminent domain process to seize properties along Fort Meigs Road.

An Ohio court ruled Monday the city of Perrysburg cannot use the “quick-take” method of eminent domain to seize certain properties.

Perrysburg is suing to seize a number of properties along Fort Meigs Road as part of a widening project. Homeowners objected, calling the process the city was using to immediately claim possession of their front yards illegal.

Two property owners challenged the city’s ability to take their property because they live in Middleton Township; not in the city of Perrysburg. They said Perrysburg cannot seize land outside its borders.

Wood County Probate Judge David Woessner issued the ruling prohibiting the city from proceeding under the quick-take process.

Under Ohio law, eminent domain proceedings mirror a traditional civil lawsuit with a decision by a jury. But if the project is making or repairing a road, a government can take possession of the disputed property immediately upon filing for eminent domain — even before the case undergoes the normal court process — through what is known as a “quick take.”

RELATED: Ohio city uses eminent domain to seize land outside its borders

Homeowners argued that since the Fort Meigs Road widening also called for an extra-wide multi-use path and “other municipal purposes,” the project didn’t qualify for quick-take.

Woessner agreed, saying that “(t)o determine otherwise would simply be to add language which does not exist” in the Ohio Revised Code.

“(T)he proposed appropriations are for . . . ‘other municipal purposes,’ as well as references to ‘installing pedestrian walkways and sidewalks’ as well as ‘for providing for public utilities.’ This Court finds that if the legislature intended for ‘quick-take’ procedures to extend to other areas, those other areas would have accordingly been referenced somewhere . . . They are not.”

“The Court further finds that expanding ‘quick take’ immediate possession of private property . . . beyond the clearly stated purpose of ‘making or repairing roads’ is not appropriate as a matter of law in appropriation/eminent domain cases. . .”

As a result of the ruling, Perrysburg must wait for the traditional eminent domain process to conclude before proceeding with the road project.

But the request to halt the eminent domain process on the properties outside the city was denied.

The city of Perrysburg amended the eminent domain lawsuit and added Middleton Township as an additional plaintiff.

The addition of the township made the homeowners’ objection moot, the judge wrote in his decision.

Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law and the attorney for the homeowners, welcomes the decision.

“Governments have increasingly been using quick-take for anything and everything, rather than just for roads, intimidating Ohioans and stripping them of their right to mount any legal objection in court,” he said. “The court’s ruling is a victory for private property rights across Ohio.”

Woessner ordered an expedited mediation to take place prior to the jury trial, which he ordered scheduled “at the earliest available date.”

 

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Maggie formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.