Can an Ohio City Acquire Property Outside the City Limits by Eminent Domain?

Perrysburg, Ohio is acquiring property in Middleton Township in order to “improve” Fort Meigs Road. Two issues are involved. First, the acquisition is for more than simply roadway, but also walkways, which was not specifically included into the road delegation of the statute. The question then becomes one of whether the road statute is intended to be for “transportation purposes,” meaning more than simply roads can be acquired.

A second issue raised in the Ohio article is the acquisition of property outside the city limits. Under almost every State Constitution, property outside city limits can be acquired if there is a Constitutional provision or State statute delegating a governmental body the power to acquire property outside the community limits. See Grosse Ile v. Grosse Ile Bridge Company, 722 NW2d 220 (2006).

First, Perrysburg lacks authority to seize property in Middleton Township. But even if it did because it’s a road project, it can’t take land for sidewalks. Further, Perrysburg has no authority to use the quick-take process in Middleton Township, and, regardless, quick-take doesn’t apply to sidewalks — either inside or outside the city limits.

“They can’t take land in the township for any reason,” Thompson said, “but particularly for amenities like a sidewalk and bike path,” citing several court cases in which quick-takes for drainage ditches and sewer lines were ruled illegal.

This week, the court granted a temporary order saying the city couldn’t take immediate possession of the properties or begin construction until certain other issues are determined.

But the land grab isn’t the only issue.

Homeowners wonder why the widening project is limited to their side of the street; the other side contains a man-made drainage ditch and farm land.

Todd Grayson, the lone Perrysburg City Council member to vote against the eminent domain proceedings, said it boils down to cost.

“There’s no debate about whether or not the road needs to be widened,” he said. “The question is: Do you pay a million dollars more to expand on the ditch/farm field side or do you go to the property owners’ side and expand on their property?”