Ohio recently passed a provision in its two-year operating budget prohibiting a park district in a county with 220,000 to 240,000 residents from using its power to take public or private property for a recreational trail. But the Ohio state Supreme Court just allowed a lawsuit to acquire a person’s property to build a bike trail to continue despite this law.
The state Supreme Court’s decision addressed the Mill Creek Metropolitan Park District’s use of its eminent domain powers to take private property to further develop and already existing bike trail in 2019. A court must approve the use this power, so the district filed an appropriations case with its local court.
While this case was pending, the state legislature added a provision to its operating budget which restricted its eminent domain powers. The landowner asked a court to dismiss Mill Creek’s appropriation case because Mahoning County, where the park is located, had a population between 220,000 and 240,000 residents. That court denied the request and found that the new law did not govern because it was passed after the district filed its case.
Supreme Court review
The landowner then sought a writ of prohibition from the Ohio Supreme Court to prevent the local trial court from having further proceedings. The landowner had to demonstrate that he does not have an adequate remedy if the trial court ruled against him or that court clearly went beyond its jurisdictional authority by ruling on that case.
The trial judge ruled that the case could proceed, and that the landowner had an adequate legal remedy because he could appeal the court’s decision after the trial was over. The landowner argued to the Ohio Supreme Court that he could not use the new law to object to the seizure of his land or file an appeal because that law was not in effect when his case began.
However, the state Supreme Court ruled that Ohio law allows the landowner to appeal from the final judgment deciding the taking of the land and the compensation. Because the landowner still has the right to appeal, the Court could not prohibit the case from going forward unless the trial court clearly lacks authority.
The Court also rejected the landowner’s argument that the new law took away the trial court ‘s jurisdiction. It ruled that the certain power districts lost appropriation authority under the new law. However, local courts still possessed general jurisdiction and the landowner could appeal its decision.
Eminent domain cases, as this court case shows, can be complicated but have serious impact on property owners. Attorneys can help assure that their rights are protected.