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MetroParks to pay more for land

Jury award adds $6,000 to original offer

YOUNGSTOWN — A jury has awarded a Green Township man about $6,000 more than what the Mill Creek MetroParks offered as compensation for acquiring the right of way on about one mile of former railroad bed that he owns near his Calla Road home.

The jury of seven women and one man awarded Thomas Hough $62,975 for the right of way on the former railroad bed and $6,000 for a smaller parcel. The MetroParks was offering about $63,000 for the former railroad bed and about $35 for the smaller parcel.

Jurors deliberated for close to 90 minutes Wednesday morning before issuing a decision. The trial began Monday morning.

The MetroParks filed an appropriation action in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court after negotiations broke down on the price Hough would be paid.

The MetroParks is using eminent domain to acquire the right of way for a portion of a bike trail. In this case, it resulted in the case going to a jury trial before Magistrate Tim Welsh, who works for Judge R. Scott Krichbaum.

Aaron Young, MetroParks executive director, said in April that the property needed to build the 6.4-mile third phase of the MetroParks bikeway in southern Mahoning County involves property owned by 13 individuals, five of whom have settled with the MetroParks.

The appropriation action the MetroParks filed in common pleas court against Green Township resident Diane Less has been tied up in appeals since last year.

The former railroad bed Hough owns is on 8.4 acres he bought in 1992 after Conrail abandoned the rail line in the 1980s.

Hough and his attorney, Molly Johnson, a part-time Mahoning County judge, argued during the trial that the MetroParks’ offer was at least $500,000 too low because of the of the value of soil and slag on the property.

Ted Roberts, an attorney for the MetroParks, however, told jurors during opening statements that the appraisal done on behalf of the MetroParks determined that “there was no extra or instrinsic value” to the soil and slag. He said the materials are “simply part of the property.”

The MetroParks board approved a resolution in 2018 indicating that its members “deem it necessary and in the best interest that the MetroParks” complete Phase III of the bikeway.

The MetroParks commissioned a feasibility study in 1996, prior to construction of Phases I and II, that determined that the best option to construct Phase III was along the same former railroad corridor as Phases I and II, the MetroParks has stated.

Phases I and II run through Austintown, Canfield and Canfield Township. The third phase will continue the trail from Western Reserve Road to the Mahoning County line at Washingtonville.

The Mahoning County bikeway is part of the 110-mile Great Ohio Lake-to-River Greenway that will begin on the shores of Lake Erie and travel south to the banks of the Ohio River in East Liverpool.

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