COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKBN) – The Supreme Court of Ohio made a ruling Tuesday on a lawsuit involving the Mill Creek Metropolitan Park District’s proposed bike trail.
In 2019, the Mill Creek Park District sought to use eminent domain power to take Edward Schlegel’s land to extend its trails. The case made its way through the courts with the Mill Creek Park District filing a lawsuit in order to acquire the land of Schlegel and other property owners in the area.
Schlegel asked that the high court dismiss the case due to a new state law that prevents park districts from using the power of eminent domain to acquire land for recreational trails. The common pleas court had denied the request, concluding that the law did not apply because it was enacted after the park district filed its case.
The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled Tuesday that Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen Sweeney can continue to consider Mill Creek’s “appropriations case,” saying the law did not eliminate Sweeney’s ability to hear the case.
Schlegel, however, can challenge Judge Sweeney’s decision to proceed with the case in an appeal after the trial is complete, the court ruled.
An appropriations case allows the trial court to consider whether a government agency may use its eminent domain power to acquire private property. If so, a jury would determine the amount of compensation due to the landowner.
During the first step of the case, a landowner can call for a “prompt hearing” to challenge the agency’s right to take the land. If the court finds in favor of the agency, then the landowner can immediately appeal the decision.
Representatives of Mill Creek Park want to add another 6.5 miles to extend their hike and bike trail to link it with the Greenway Trail in Columbiana County, but they need some property in the area to do it. This would be the third phase of the project and would extend from S. Western Reserve Road to the Columbiana County line.
Landowners like Diane Less have been fighting that for years, however, saying they don’t want to give up their land.