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Eminent domain threatens Ohio farmers' lands

Ohio residents enjoy the control they retain over their property. Yet, in what seems like the blink of an eye, the government can swoop in and try to claim that property for its own use through eminent domain. Of course, there are restrictions on when the government can do this, as it has to be in furtherance of the public good. Additionally, the government must give the landowner fair compensation for the land that is being claimed. These matters may seem pretty straightforward, but they give rise to a lot of contentious litigation.

A group of farmers in Mahoning County in eastern Ohio may be in this position now. There, the local government is relying on eminent domain to expand a bike path that runs along an old railway line. Many of the farmers feel that the move is encroaching not only upon their ability to farm and raise livestock, but also upon the peace and quiet they sought when purchasing their property. One state representative stated that this use of eminent domain is prime example of government overreach. Although one farmer was offered more than $35,000 for access to his 6.5-acre property, the farmer is concerned about how the bike path would affect his ability to run his business, which would essentially be split into two parts.

Also, simply because the government acquires a property it doesn't mean that the farmers can forget about it. Instead, the landowners are still responsible for taxes and upkeep on the property, even if the property is damaged by those who are using the bike path. Many of these farmers are putting their hope in a newly proposed bill that would exempt recreational trails from the acceptable uses of eminent domain.

The threat of losing your land as a result of government intervention can be scary. However, those who are facing this issue don't have to simply sit back and let the government steamroll them into an agreement. Instead, they can fight either the justification for the utilization of eminent domain or for truly fair compensation.

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