|By CELESTE BAUMGARTNER
COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state of Ohio has formed a task force to review Ohio’s eminent domain laws and their impact on private property rights and economic development.
Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) staff member Larry Gearhardt has been appointed as agriculture’s representative on the task force.
In the Kelo versus the City of New London case late last year the U.S. Supreme court allowed New London to take property by eminent domain to turn over to a private developer for the purpose of development, Gearhardt said. The definition of “public use” was broadened to include development by private property owners.
“The Supreme Court knew that it would be an unpopular decision but felt their hands were tied,” Gearhardt said. “In that court decision the Supreme Court invited states to look at their own individual statutes and make any adjustments they needed to in response to that decision.”
The Ohio state legislature passed a moratorium against these kinds of takings through the year 2006 and provided for the appointment of a 25 member task force to study the eminent domain law.
OFBF attempted to rein in eminent domain prior to the Kelo case, Gearhardt said. In addition to the charge to the committee to examine the impact of the Kelo decision OFBF would also like to take a look at some other issues encountered over the years “and we may or may not be successful,” Gearhardt said.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how hard they work to limit the agenda,” he said.
Seventy-two state and local agencies have the power of eminent domain; Farm Bureau believes that is too many.
Another priority is to create a mechanism that that provides fair compensation.
“We’re also concerned about government agencies taking land that they really don’t need and then not doing anything with it,” Gearhardt said.
If an eminent domain project is announced, it should be completed in a reasonable amount of time, Gearhardt said. He cited the example of the bypass around Urbana. The land was purchased in the 60s and 70s and the bypass was never built.
The eminent domain committee must issue a preliminary report by the end of April 2006 and a final report by the end of August 2006, Gearhardt said.
“Our goal then is to have language that would be sufficient to put on the ballot for Ohio voters to vote on in the upcoming election,” Gearhardt said.
“I think that everybody seems to be on board that the taking that occurred in New London, Connecticut, is not the intention of the eminent domain law,” Gearhardt said.
“I feel fairly confident that we can limit that but I don’t know how far we’ll get beyond that,” he said. “It’s going to be an interesting discussion and certainly we’re anxious to have other people taking a look at this law. We’ve been looking at it for 10 years.”
This farm news was published in the February 22, 2006 issue of Farm World.