A Montgomery County property rights dispute has sparked a statewide call for action on Ohio’s eminent domain law, as well as a move to stop the $5 million widening and extension of a bike path on Austin Boulevard.
Granato, 85, died Wednesday, July 31, but her family continues to argue through legal filings that the work is intrusive and the taking for the bike path fails to meet the standard for a taking through eminent domain.
The Granato’s lawyer, Matthew Fellerhoff, wants Judge Mary Katherine Huffman to delay the construction of the bike path until a decision has been made in eminent domain litigation with the county.
Huffman, Fellerhoff and a Montgomery County prosecutor were to meet today on the eminent domain litigation, although no ruling has been made on the requested hearing.
The county delayed work in front of the house for Mary Granato’s funeral, but construction has resumed on the stretch of road between Washington Church and Yankee roads, east of Ohio 741 and the Austin Landing development, citing Ohio eminent domain law.
County officials have said the widening and bike path are part of a publicly funded project authorized through a standard process, including studies and planning determining the necessity and location.
“There is no basis in law or in fact for the requested hearing,” Assistant County Prosecutor Victoria Watson said in an Aug. 8 response to the motion for a hearing.
The county issued a statement on the Granato case earlier this week, but declined to comment Thursday, citing pending litigation. The statement said bike paths and sidewalks are part of road projects authorized for taking under eminent domain law.
“Certainly sidewalks have long been considered part of roads and have been included in numerous quick-take eminent domain cases,” the statement said.
The statement also noted other projects have resulted in construction of sidewalks closer than the path to be built in front of the Granato home.
The dispute prompted a protest last week outside the home, built around 1850 by Isaac Austin, an early settler.
The protest was promoted by the leader of We the People Convention, an annual convention gathering bringing together a coalition of tea parties, liberty groups and other conservative organizations in Ohio.
“This is a constitutional issue we are engaged in. We don’t think this is right. We think they should reconsider,” said Tom Zawistowski, president of the We the People Convention.
Conservative groups have taken up the eminent domain issue as an part of opposition to Agenda 21, an initiative of the United Nations in support of sustainable development.
“What are the limits of eminent domain?” said Zawistowski, also past president of Ohio Liberty Coalition.
The county statement noted the use of eminent domain in development of the state’s road system.
“Transportation facilities have been a critical part of what has made Ohio what it is today, whether roads, canals, or railroads. None of these systems could have been developed without the use of eminent domain,” according to the statement.