Farm Bureau supports landowners in eminent domain cases

In November 2020, Ohio Farm Bureau filed briefs in separate, yet related cases on behalf of landowners in Washington County. The cases revolve around expanded transmission line easements being sought by Ohio Power (AEP), including on land owned by county Farm Bureau members.

The first case involves county Common Pleas Court Judge John Halliday. After ruling against the landowners on their claims that the utility company is taking more rights than they need to build a transmission line, the judge set a date for a trial to determine how much money is due to the landowners. However, the law states that a trial for money should only be set subject to any appeal on the question of necessity.

“The landowners have appealed his order on the basis of necessity, and therefore, should be entitled to a stay of the proceedings for the money damages,” said Leah Curtis, OFBF policy counsel and senior director of member engagement. The landowners filed in the Ohio Supreme Court for a writ of prohibition, which would prohibit a government official from performing any task before the appeal is heard. Ohio Farm Bureau supported the landowners with an amicus brief.

A second set of cases are the appeals of the underlying case presided over by Halliday. Here, Ohio Power is attempting to take an easement by eminent domain for its transmission line. However, the company is asking to take more than is necessary to build this line — including the right to build structures in the easement, and a “tree protection zone” that extends 80 feet on either side of the easement with no plan to compensate for such “zone.”

“There are actually four separate cases that concern this same project, and we have filed in all four of them,” Curtis said. “We are arguing that the court must scrutinize ‘necessity’ in each project, as well as examine the burden of proof, constitutionality of presumptions and the meaning of  ‘abandonment.’”

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