City may use eminent domain for Demorest Road improvements

By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor

The city of Grove City is planning to repair the Demorest Road corridor, but officials will need to acquire property to do so.

At the Oct. 18 meeting, Grove City Council passed legislation authorizing the appropriation of property and easements from multiple properties for the road improvement project.

According to Stephen Smith, the city’s law director, this legislation includes 35 properties, though some of the land is already city-owned. Smith said the city is negotiating with 25 property owners. He said thus far, six have signed contracts with the city and he expects a few more in the coming days. Ten property owners have yet to settle with the city.

“I feel like we’ve done everything we can to work this out,” said Smith. “I’m going to continue to negotiate until the last possible minute to try to get this done amicably.”

According to Smith, there are a few property owners who do not wish to sell their land to the city. He believes the city will have to use eminent domain to obtain the property.

Eminent domain is a legal term for the government’s power to take private property and change it to public use, according to the Ohio Attorney General. Cities can take private land for public roads, sidewalks, bike paths, or multi-use trails. The municipalities are required to pay the property owner fair market value.

Smith said Grove City has a quick-take power.

“This is a law that will not allow one property owner to hold up a city project,” said Smith.

The law director said most property owners are excited about the road project, but others fear that the road is going to take up too much of their front yard. He said the project is adding about six feet of pavement on each side of the road.

The project will include full pavement reconstruction of existing roadway, an additional center turn lane, a multi-use trail and sidewalk with ADA (Americans with Disabilities) compliant curb ramps, and replacement of existing storm sewer with a curb and gutter system.

Earlier this month, city council approved funding for the first phase of Demorest Road improvements. Council voted to appropriate about $5.6 million from the city’s capital improvement fund for Demorest Road improvements. This cost includes the land acquisitions.

The legislation passed allows the city’s law director to file for eminent domain in court. The court process would then negotiate a price with the property owners who did not settle with the city.

The only council member to vote against the ordinance was Aaron Schlabach.

“I do believe Demorest Road needs widened but I have a problem with eminent domain,” he said.

Smith said he does not want to file a lawsuit, but said in some cases, it is necessary.

“It’s not for lack of effort,” said Smith. “We are taking every step we can not to go down that road.”

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