OTTAWA — A longstanding dispute between Putnam County Commissioners and landowners along Road 5 continues to be played out, returning for a second time to the 3rd District Court of Appeals.
The appellate court ruled last year that commissioners violated Ohio’s Sunshine Laws concerning open records after filing a petition to appropriate 10 feet of land along both sides of 11.2 miles of Road 5 between Pandora and Leipsic in 2009. Commissioners had used eminent domain to expand the road from 20 to 24 feet in width, but property owners were not given notice of the appropriation, nor were they given the chance to object.
However, by the time the ruling had been issued, commissioners had already completed the expansion. The appellate court noted in a footnote that reversing the expansion would be very costly, encouraging both sides to come to a settlement.
When it came time to litigate over the eminent domain issue, rather than the open records violations, landowners appealed the decision to determine a fair settlement for the land, which would validate the eminent domain claims from the county, which were already determined to be invalid, according to attorney Daniel Ellis.
“It’s like if I took your car and drove it for two years and then decided to give you the depreciated value of that car, while still keeping it,” he said. “They need to do this right.”
Oral arguments were made to the appellate court in September, and both sides are awaiting the court’s decision, with the landowners having various ideas of what would make a satisfactory resolution.
“Some would like to see the road work reversed, while others just want to see everyone get a fair payment,” attorney Linde Webb said. “They weren’t compensating the poor along that road adequately.”
Whatever the decision, things cannot stay as they are, according to attorey Matthew Cunningham.
“The idea is that if you can’t take my property, you have to give it back,” he said.
Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.