The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled that Columbia Gas of Ohio did not demonstrate that taking of the property was a necessity, and that further review was warranted of the agricultural easement issue.Read More
Ohio Farm Bureau and the Union County Farm Bureau have been involved in a court case, Columbia Gas of Ohio v. Bailey Family/Arno Renner Trust, with potential impacts to farmland preservation programs. A long-awaited decision in that important eminent domain case came out this week: The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled that Columbia Gas of Ohio did not demonstrate that taking of the property was a necessity, and that further review was warranted of the agricultural easement issue.
“This is a very important outcome for not only the Bailey family and the Arno Renner Trust, but anyone who enters into agricultural easements with the intention for their land to remain in agriculture and not just for their family, but for future generations,” Ohio Farm Bureau shared in a statement. “Our organization got involved to not only highlight the significance of the state’s Farmland Preservation program in this case, but also to emphasize the need for broader eminent domain reform that Ohio Farm Bureau is currently advocating for on behalf of landowners across the state.”
At issue in this case: the land that Columbia Gas of Ohio was seeking has a farmland preservation easement on it that was donated to the state of Ohio.
“The landowner and the state agreed when that gift was made that we’re going to continue to have this land in farmland and in agricultural production,” said Leah Curtis, policy counsel with Ohio Farm Bureau. “We want to make sure that those gifts are respected and that these easements are respected.”
With Farm Bureau, efforts like this always start at the grassroots level and, in this case, Union County Farm Bureau has been involved with this situation from the start, making its concerns with this case known locally.
At the state level, Ohio Farm Bureau was able to work with the landowners and their attorneys by filing an amicus brief that was also joined by the Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts. The brief focused on the ag easement issue, and how a utility line being buried under a property does in fact impact the agricultural use of that property.
Curtis said the point of Ohio Farm Bureau’s amicus brief is to not only support the legal arguments being made, but also to provide some more practical and broader perspective of the impacts that these cases can have on the individual landowner and the larger agricultural community.
“We highlighted that there were lots of agricultural uses that would no longer be available because of the presence of that pipeline,” said Curtis. “For example, things like planting tree crops or building a livestock barn would be wholly prohibited or strictly limited by the presence of that pipeline.”
As for the Bailey family, this decision means spending more time in the field than in the courtroom.
“We’re very thankful the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Union County Farm Bureau had our backs through this entire three-year ordeal,” said Patrick Bailey, a Union County Farm Bureau member. “This fight should never have happened, and we’re disappointed that it came down to such a lengthy legal battle, but we were blessed with so many friends and neighbors showing up to support us, including the Union County SWCD, the Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts and land preservation groups from across the state. Our family hopes we can finally put all of this behind us and get back to focusing on getting this year’s crop in the ground.”
From here, the case can be appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court, or it will be returned to the trial court for further proceedings in accordance with the Appellate Court’s opinion.
Legal with Leah is a podcast featuring Ohio Farm Bureau’s Policy Counsel Leah Curtis discussing topics impacting farmers and landowners. Listen as Curtis breaks down the court ruling.
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