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Manning testifies in eminent domain hearing affecting Mill Creek Park

COLUMBUS — State. Rep. Don Manning, R-New Middletown, testified Wednesday before the State and Local Government committee on legislation he introduced, House Bill 476, that would restrict the use of eminent domain by non-elected government entities for the purpose of recreational trails.

“This legislation gives our constituents another avenue to protect their property from the government’s reach,” he said. “The collaborative environment between property owners, local legislative authorities and unelected government authorities that this bill creates will surely help ensure that the use of eminent domain for a recreational trail is in the best interest of all involved.”

Manning testified about his inspiration for the legislation: An ongoing dispute between Mill Creek MetroParks and some residents along the proposed path.

“Several months ago, I was approached by farmers, property owners and business owners in my district who are at risk of losing property for the creation of a bike trail,” he said. “Several farm owners are facing the very real possibility that acres of their land are about to be cut off from the rest of their property.”

The additional 6.5 miles of proposed trail in Mahoning County is part of a bigger trail project from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.

Diane Less, who owns Paul Less Farm in Green Township, has said she would be cut off from the horse trail at her farm and a family cemetery if the trail proceeds. The farm has been in the family about 100 years, and she argues taking the property for a bike trail is not fair and might expose the tax-paying property owners to liabilities and security concerns.

The legislation seeks to add safeguards against the abuse of eminent domain, “which under current law has resulted in constituents getting caught up in expensive legal battles in an attempt to protect their property from unelected government entities,” Manning said in a news release. “Additionally, it would better facilitate cooperation among multiple parties for the development of recreational trails.”

House Bill 476 now awaits its second hearing within the committee.

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