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Mahoning sues to seize land for road



Published: Thu, August 12, 2010 @ 12:09 a.m.

26 lawsuits target residents and church on Western Reserve

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Mahoning County has launched a court battle to seize by eminent domain the land it says it needs for next year’s $7.6 million widening of Western Reserve Road between Tippecanoe Road and U.S. Route 62.

On Monday, John T. Heino, an assistant county prosecutor assigned to the county engineer’s office, filed 26 eminent domain lawsuits in common pleas court against Western Reserve Road residents and one against Paradise Lutheran Church on that road.

The county commissioners authorized the lawsuits by a unanimous June 30 resolution, which identified each owner from whom the county intends to take land.

The resolution also states the combined amount of compensation the county believes each owner is entitled to for the property being taken.

These totals range from $300 to $28,690.

In their resolution, the commissioners said the county and the landowners have been unable to agree on terms for the county’s acquisition of the land.

“I think it’s primarily holding out for more money,” county Engineer Richard A. Marsico said of the landowners’ resistance.

Marsico said he expects the county will file a total of 48 eminent-domain lawsuits in the current land-acquisition drive, and he estimated the county will seek to acquire parts of about 125 parcels for the project.

“We’ve always had some that resisted,” Marsico said of landowners involved in previous road-widening projects. In an earlier widening of another stretch of Western Reserve Road, he observed that some people resisted, “but not to this number.”

One of the Western Reserve Road residents sued is John M. Cizmar, of 7112 W. Western Reserve Road, Canfield Township, who said he agreed to the county’s $14,700 acquisition offer and didn’t know why he’s being sued.

Marilyn Kenner, chief deputy county engineer, explained the county sued him because Chase Bank has not completed a partial mortgage release on his property. If the mortgage release is completed, the lawsuit against him will be dropped, she said.

Kenner said the flurry of lawsuits filed was due to a federally imposed deadline this month for right-of-way acquisition. The project, first planned in 1991, is 80 percent federally funded and 20 percent locally funded, with the federal money having been committed to it in the last three years.

“It’s not that we don’t want to negotiate with these people. We do want to negotiate,” Kenner said. “We’d like them to be happy with the process.”

Cizmar said he now wishes he hadn’t agreed to the county’s offer. “I should have researched it more,” he said, adding that he couldn’t afford a lawyer to represent him. “There are a lot of people who are fighting it, and I’m glad. It’s going to greatly reduce the value of my home,” Cizmar said of the widening.

He estimated the current value of his three-bedroom, split-level house to be at least $150,000.

Instead of the house being 25 feet to 30 feet from the road as it is now, the structure will be 15 feet to 20 feet from the road after the widening. “It’s going to look like hell,” he said, adding that the project will consume most of his lawn.

Cizmar estimated traffic on Western Reserve Road has increased tenfold since he moved there in 1995. He attributed the increase to new commercial development on lower South Avenue and on Western Reserve Road and the desire of some motorists to bypass the center of Canfield.

The official average daily vehicle count reported by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments for that section of Western Reserve Road was 6,288 this year, compared to 4,954 in 2000.

The number of eminent-domain lawsuits filed by the county on Monday is the largest number of such suits filed here on a single day in recent years, said Mark Stan, deputy court clerk.

These suits have been distributed by random assignment among the five general-division common-pleas court judges, Stan said.

In the section to be widened next year, Western Reserve Road now has two lanes and is 18 feet to 20 feet wide, with no shoulders. It will be widened to 32 feet, including 4-foot paved shoulders on either side. Left turning lanes will be added to Western Reserve at the state Route 46 intersection.

“It’ll be safer for the traveling public,” Kenner said of Western Reserve after it is widened. Now a major east-west thoroughfare, this section of the road forms the boundary between Canfield Township on its north side and Beaver and Green townships on its south side.

In its filing against Paradise Lutheran Church, 3689 W. Western Reserve Road, the county offered $620 for the land it will take, $2,150 for damage to unacquired church property and $90 for a temporary construction easement, for a total of $2,860.

The county’s lawsuit against the church demands a jury trial to determine just compensation for the land acquisition.

Kenner said the widening project would not encroach on the church building or cemetery, but it will consume part of the church driveway.

No one answered the telephone number listed for the church Wednesday morning.

In their July 22 meeting, the county commissioners bought $76,140 worth of land from 11 owners for next year’s widening project.


Comments

1bearyspecial(3 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

This is a subject that I understand very well. I totally sympathize and support the homeowners who object to their properties being taken by Mahoning County for this road widening project. Mahoning County should not be given carte blanche just because of emminent domain. My father, an elderly gentleman lives on that road and was part of the first section of lands acquired for the widening between Tippecanoe Rd and the Turnpike overpass on Western Reserve Rd. The destruction to his property was horrible as anyone who lives there knows quite well. The county destroyed trees and land that were never included in the original purchase and to date have never been paid for despite a lengthy lawsuit that we were forced to settle because our legal fees would have been exorbitant. More land was taken than agreed upon, his entire septic field in the front of his home was destroyed, his basement flooded when the road contractor destroyed the end of his gravity drain line.For two years the County promised to fix all the damage to his property, but in the end we were forced to hire a lawyer when all their promises came up empty and they refused to repair anything. My father had to fight for even the minimal amount of money necessary to get a working septic system moved and placed on the back of his property and that took almost 3 yrs! He was left with a steep incline to his home's front door and no access point to even reach his front porch and he is disabled! A once level driveway, now passes as a ski hill in the winter months. I could go on and on there were so many promises by the county and our family ended up with a disaster and countless legal battles. I hope these homeowners stand their ground and protect their properties if they feel they are not being fairly treated by Mahoning county. We learned the hard way that when it comes to road widening projects the County makes promises they do not keep!

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2Joe306tow(49 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Eminent domain equals theft by the State. The Mahoning County Prosecutor, Engineer, and Commissioners all should be investigated.

I am sure you will find a money trail right to the door of the contractors, and developers of this project. SO, THE PEOPLE get screwed just so some crooks can line their pockets with cash.

Welcome to Amerika home of Socialist Obama and Democrats!

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3UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Eminent domain is wrong. These people are being hosed. Can you imagine living only 15-20 feet off this highway with the increased noise and traffic? Their p[roperty values will plumet and the govedrnment in this case is a thief. Remember who is paying for this when you go vote in November - the Demowrongs who are spending money they don't have on a project that people don't want that our grandchildren will repay to the Chinese. Another great example of TAX & SPEND!!!

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4Stormieangel(136 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

How much wider does this part of Western Reserve need to be? Heck, the county doesn't even keep the roads up and they can afford to sue? Interesting indeed!!! I agree that eminent domain is just legal thievery by the powers-that-be. Just take your legal money and resurface the blasted road. When people don't have to slow down because of the rough road and potholes, traffic will flow just fine!!! Our roads are a disgrace. Even the patched ones are dangerous....to your vehicle because instead of a hole in the road, there is a lump in the road...try riding this on a 2-wheeler or 3-wheeler. And the rest of you...quit blaming the democrats and start blaming JUST POLITICIANS. I am a democrat and I am against all the needless spending of all of our government systems. The politicians have their own agenda or they do what profits themselves...if only we knew what goes on behind the scenes. Let's just get Western Reserve paved and forget about widening it. But I am just a simple taxpayer so what do I know? And I know my opinion means squat to these so-called leaders!!!! As far as the church's issues and some of the homeowners....what happens to their front yards? The church's front door is so close to the road now...well, I guess they can have drive-through services!!! Just repave the blasted road, save the money you'd use to widen it and pave another crappy road in the county. You might try parts of Unity Road in Springfield Twp. But I know there are plenty that need to be repaved or at least, they need patched properly.

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5author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

It's all about giving MORE tax dollars to the contractors and paving companies -- the only growth industry in America these days.

Don't go after Marsico and Kenner, take your fight to Two Tony Traficanti, Lame Duck David Ludt and Indicted John McNally.

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6rider(4 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Ohhh......Wonderful Mahoning County Commissioners. When they surveyed the amount of traffic did they take into consideration all of us traveled Western Reserve while they had 224 tied up the last couple of years. What a perfect time to survey and say that the amount of traffic has increased and based on that let's keep ourselved employed. There are so many roads that need tended to and they decide to widen a road that they cannot even maintain. What a waste of money.

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7AtownParent(562 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I agree with Stormieangel - if the section they want to expand would just be paved properly, there would be no issues. And to go after a church, way to go county commissioners. Leave these people alone and let them have their land.

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8walter_sobchak(1905 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Unfortunately (and you people won't want to hear this), but more of these types of improvements to our roads are needed. On two lane county roads, the majority of the problems arise from roads either not being wide enough or improper drainage. In my opinion, we throw away good money by just putting down more asphalt if you don't improve the base under the pavement.

It's a vicious cycle. Cars and trucks run along the edges of the roads and "squeeze" the sub-base out from under the pavement. This creates a low spot where water accumulates and eventually seeps into the sub-base. This weakens the sub-base by decreasing the shear strength of the material. Vehicles continue to run on this, furthering the problem. Then, add freeze/thaw cycles and water pumping back up through the pavement, and the road crumbles in a few years.

Give the county engineer credit for trying to do it correctly. Eminent domain is a provision in our Constitution and is very much a legal process. Sometimes trees and other impediments must be removed to do the project that is for the public welfare. When things are damaged such as pipes, septic systems and othercircumstances, your argument is with the road contractor. Unfortunately, sometimes the only solution is to sue the contractor or his bonding company.

You people may not like this but sometimes these types of projects are necessary. There is a tremendous amount of traffic on this road, increased development of residential and commercial property and it connects route 7 to route 62. It is no longer just a two lane country road. Not very long ago, rte.224 was two lanes wide from Market St. to Poland. But, areas develop and things move along.

These land owners will get their due process of law and their day in court. It is possible that they won't like the settlement that they get, but, it is the law.

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9marauder(22 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Hey Joe506tow, eminent domain is in the fifth amendment to the Constitution! I know Obama is good but I don't think he or the Democrats put it in the Constitution. You must be one those " tea baggers" that likes to visit Fire Island. Most likely your just republican and stupid!

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10bearyspecial(3 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

To the comments regarding suing the road contractor and not blaming the county for the damages done to the property of the homeowners on the first round of the Western Reserve Widening project. First: the County hires the contractor and awards the contract with agreed upon TERMS between that contractor and Mahoning County: Did you know the county gave that contractor a contract with a "HOLD HARMLESS CLAUSE!" How easy do you think it is to sue a contractor with that kind of clause in his county contract?
Second: Have you tried living in a home without a workable septic system for 3 yrs. because no one on the county level will intercede and force the contractor to fix the horrendous damage and he claims that because of the HOLD HARMLESS CLAUSE, he doesn't have too! Contacting your insurance company is useless because the County road project was to blame according to them and they aren't liable for any of the repairs.
Third: Have you tried to live in a home with a flooded basement and no one wants to help? Your insurance company again won't help because its not their problem since the county road project caused the flooding.
Fourth: My father was left with no viable means to exit his home through the front of his property. Because of the way his hallways are built inside, this doorway is the only means that an ambulance can use in an emergency to remove him. During this period of time if an emergency had occured there would have been no means to have removed him from the home on a gurney. The County originally promised to correct this situation immediately because my father's health was of a serious nature at the time. But in the end they reneged as that did with every other damaged area and placed it back on the contractor who again claimed his right to be held blameless because of HIS HOLD HARMLESS CLAUSE!
Fifth: When all else has failed and the County has failed you and the very contract that they signed with you, you are forced to try and find a lawyer you can afford. This is an oxymoron. When was the last time you checked the hourly rates of attorneys willing to take on Mahoning County politicians? Especially when you're an elderly disabled gentleman on a fixed income?
I too believe in the right of development and the need for cities to grow and meet the needs of growing communities particularly with their infrastructures. But I do not believe that any government democratic or republican has the right to tread on the rights of its citizens or to jeopardize their very lives in order to widen a road.
Do it RIGHT....Do it HONESTLY...Do it with INTEGRITY....and more than anything else....stand behind the contractual agreements you write with the homeowners. It doesn't hurt to be aware of the contracts that the County writes with their awarded contractors either!

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11walter_sobchak(1905 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I don't understand why the county would enter into this type of agreement. Of course, I don't understand why they entered into an agreement to lease the McGuffey mall and be liable for maintenance and upkeep. The county should have repaired the damage as it is the right thing to do and deducted the repair costs from the contract payments. Typically, though, the contractor would be responsible and that is whom should pay.

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12Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Please use the money someplace else . This road does not need it or want it . I hope this not so some big developer can fill up the land with condo,s that we do not need.

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13ttup1rd(27 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Once again, Marsico is clueless and Kenner will screw you in a second thats why someone keeps flagging my comments because she knows i'm right and they don't want the public to know what is really going on in that office. Also thats why the state is still investigating that office...KARMA....

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14walter_sobchak(1905 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

@lombardo,

W. Reserve Rd. needs to have an interchange with SR-11 and should be 4 lanes from SR-46 to I-680. This would alleviate a lot of congestion on other highways.

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15Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Wasteful Federal dollars dropping down to create a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. Anyone ignorant enough to say that an elderly disabled man should have known better than to purchase a home on Western Reserve Rd lacks the slightest of judgment.And messing with the church too boot. As one of the posters commented the totals are not real because 224 was under construction at the time the totals were calculated.More wasted money.The traffic on that stretch of Western Reserve is a drop in the bucket compared to 224, 46 , 62 ect.There isn't much commercial development on that stretch of road and one must also ask do we need more commercial development and service sector jobs than we have already ?

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16commonsense1(3 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Paradise Lutheran Church voted today to find an attorney and begin the legal process to protect their interest. I pray through this process that God will receive all Glory and Honor. The Church verses mahoning county trustees. And TNT says they have drama. yea right. For all those people who truly practice and believe in prayer, please pray for the congregation and its leaders. God bless

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17Bigben(1996 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

commonsense1 you and the church are in my prayers as well as every single property owner.You folks are fighting far up into the circles of power.The privatization folks(banking elite /corporations) steal pensions ,steal our land use our children to fight their crappy wars and screw them out of their benefits when they are wounded, erase our borders and wipe their rear ends on the Constitution.

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