Farmers in Mahoning County may be interested to learn that pending legislation designed to support their fight against eminent domain claims remains alive even though the lead man for the legislation is gone. State Representative Don Manning from New Middleton, who died March 20 of an apparent heart attack, was joined by Stephen Hambley of New Brunswick in introducing Ohio Bill 476 in January 2020. Manning died of a heart attack two months after the bill was introduced.

The need for the new legislation became apparent to Manning when farmers in his district were targeted with eminent domain lawsuits from Mill Creek Metroparks. Further investigation revealed that a bike path was being planned that would strip some farmers of land ownership.

Representative Hambley says the legislation was extremely important to Manning. Hambley explains that his fallen colleague had a deep understanding of the problem facing constituents of his district. Ohio Bill 476 does not eliminate the risks farmers and other Ohio citizens face from eminent domain regulations. However, the new legislature does provide the farmers with additional options to voice their objections to officials. The bill would also increase the power of intervention possessed by local governments.

The present law allows landowners to voice their objection with the park board district that decided to take their land. The second measure available is an appeal to the probate judge that appointed the members of the board. Ohio Bill 476 would make it possible for landowners to speak with the city council or board of trustees regarding eminent domain complaints. These departments of local government would also possess the power to veto property acquisitions through the use of eminent domain regulations.

The state constitution of Ohio gives local governments the authority to seize privately owned land in certain circumstances for public use. However, property owners are entitled to fair and just compensation for the loss of their property. Property owners may increase their chances of receiving fair compensation by working with a lawyer who is experienced in matters pertaining to eminent domain.