Exclusive: MVRPC Responds to American Policy Center’s Call to Action on Granato Family Property pb

“THIS IS A MATTER FOR THE COURTS TO SETTLE”

by Sharon Rondeau

The MVRPC’s motto is “MVRPC — One Region…One Vision…One Future”

(Aug. 16, 2013) — In response to our inquiry of Friday morning into the allegations made by Tom DeWeese of the American Policy Center about the Granato family’s front yard having been seized to create a bicycle path by the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC), a member of the commission, Brian O. Martin, sent an email response with an attachment.

His email reads as follows:

Ms. Rondeau:
 
I am the Executive Director of Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.  We usually go by our acronym which is MVRPC.  I am responding with the hope that you will assist me with getting out the facts about this case.  Mr. DeWeese’s blog is incorrect as it relates to the project’s history and implementation.  I very much appreciate your interest in determining whether his statements are accurate.
 
It is true that the roadway widening project comes near the Granato’s house.  It is true that the family’s matriarch recently passed.  It is also true that the county asked the contractor to not work on the day of the memorial services.  It is also true that an offer was made for the property with no response from the owners until this week.  This matter has been going on for some time as discussed below.  There are numerous misstatements in Mr. Dewesse’s article.
 
I need to let you know the MVRPC Board of Directors is made up of 49 locally elected officials out of the 75 members.  All of our board members serve as volunteers and are dedicated, committed public servants and Regional leaders.   MVRPC has nothing to do with design and right of way acquisition for any transportation project.  As a planning agency, we have no power to require that a sidewalk, bike path or any transportation infrastructure be built.  We do not seize property.   We make recommendations about transportation issues and funding, primarily.  We have informed the Granato family of this fact many times; however, this agency continues to be dragged into the dispute which is over fair, reasonable compensation for right of way between the family and the project’s implementation agency, Montgomery County Engineer’s Office.  This is a matter for the courts to settle and not public opinion.  Please read the attached document which is a chronology of the events through Wednesday 8/14/13.  The document was written by Paul Gruner, Montgomery County Engineer, an elected official.
 
MVRPC’s only role in transportation funding is to select projects for federal transportation dollars.   An interested person will discover that the MVRPC Board of Directors authorizes federal transportation dollars toward local projects – that’s it.  Our web site is www.mvrpc.org if you are interested in learning more about the agency.   Bicycle and walking infrastructure for transportation purposes are eligible for federal funding just like roads, bridges, airports, and public transit.  Some will use a bike, walk, skate, or push a stroller to their destination instead of driving their car.  Without the multiuse trail along Austin Boulevard, there is no infrastructure there (no sidewalks) for people to use.  Doing so, reduces the amount of carbon and harmful emissions into the atmosphere so that our air is cleaner.   
 
            The Austin Boulevard project was on the Region’s 2004 long range plan and the 2008 bikeway plan maintained by MVRPC.  There was no secrecy in including this project on the plan or its implementation.  The application for funding this project came through MVRPC in 2008.  Federal funding was allocated in 2011 through 2013.  That concluded the MVRPC Board of Directors involvement in the project.  MVRPC has no role in design, completion of environmental documents, nor negotiation with property owners.  Every project included on the regional plans goes through a very public input process required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) which has been upheld by the Supreme Court and allows every person the opportunity to review the project details and provide input.  This project is a 0.4 mile section on a roadway that will be widened to 4 lanes, median with turning lanes, and a multiuse path serving bicyclists and pedestrians.  It is a section of a much larger project that improves Austin Boulevard and Social Row Rd.
 
            The matter of compensation for the needed right of way for the bikeway is one for the courts to decide.   My understanding is the property owner was offered compensation for their land some time ago; however, a counter offer has been recently made.  The Montgomery County Engineer is the point of contact for these negotiations.  The county engineer’s latest chronology including the property owner’s request for $452,000 is included in the attached document.
 
            Two- thirds of the MVRPC Board of Directors are in fact locally elected officials and in no way are they involved in the right of way dispute.  I urge you to continue to examine and fact find for yourself on this and other “calls to action” that come into your inbox.  As you probably are aware, there is always another side to the story.
 
Brian O. Martin, AICP, Executive Director
One South Main Street, Suite 260
Dayton, OH 45402 www.mvrpc.org
Tel: 937.223.6323 I Fax: 937.223.9750 I
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The attachment Mr. Martin included with his email reads as follows:

Austin Boulevard, Washington Church Road to Yankee Street

Key Facts Relative to Granato Properties and the R/W Acquisition Process

August 12, 2013

Eminent Domain

·         Ohio Constitution: “Private property shall ever be held inviolate, but subservient to the public welfare.”

·         Ohio Revised Code Chapter 163:”… or for the purpose of making or repairing roads, which shall be open to the public, without charge, an answer may not deny the right to make the appropriation, the inability of the parties to agree or the necessity for the appropriation.”

·      Transportation facilities have been a critical part of what has made Ohio what it is today, whether roads, canals, or railroads. None of these systems could have been developed without the use of eminent domain.

·       When county roads were originally established in the early to mid-1800s, they were obviously not established for motorized vehicles. Instead, they were for horses, cattle, wagons, and pedestrians. In fact, they were used by bicycles long before they were used by motorized vehicles, as the bicycle was invented in the early 1800s, and bicyclists were instrumental in promoting the first paving of roads in the US. Therefore it does not make sense to argue that a bike path is not part of a road. Certainly sidewalks have long been considered part of roads and have been included in numerous quick-take eminent domain cases.

Austin Boulevard Project Timeline

      Federal funding was approved by the Board of MVRPC on March 6, 2008. The project approved (which originally was joint with a Yankee Street project and later split) was to include widening from 2 lanes to 4 lanes with a raised median, a sidewalk on the south side, and a bike path on the north side. This project is a “gap-filling” project only 0.4 miles long, connecting two adjacent projects that have a bike path on the north side. It is primarily a road project that includes a sidewalk and a bike path.

·      The bike path along Austin Blvd/Social Row Road has been on the MVRPC Comprehensive Local Regional Bikeways Plan since at least 2008 and on the Centerville-Washington Township Park District Multi-Use Trail Plan since approximately 2006. Bike Paths are widely supported by Montgomery County residents in transportation planning public involvement efforts.

·         Montgomery County entered into a contract for engineering design and environmental studies on November 17, 2009.

·         On December 17, 2010, the Montgomery County Engineer’s Office sent a letter to all property owners abutting the project. The letter included a description of the proposed project, conceptual graphics calling for a 10’ asphalt bike path on the north side of the road, and a comment sheet. A comment sheet was returned by Al Granato with no mention of the bike path. No comment sheet was returned by Mark Granato. A follow-up meeting was held with Al Granato.

·    On January 6, 2011, the Board of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission adopted a Complete Streets Policy that strongly encourages provisions for all modes of transportation. This policy, overwhelmingly supported by the public, is especially applicable for a “gap-filling” project.

·         On February 17, 2011, a second letter was sent out to property owners showing the conceptual design with changes made to address some property-owner comments. Again, further comments were requested. No written comments were received from either Al Granato or Mark Granato.

·         A Categorical Exclusion environmental document was prepared and was approved by the Ohio Department of Transportation on March 29, 2011.

·        A Public Viewing was held on June 12, 2012 and a Public Hearing was held on June 19, 2012 by the Montgomery County Commissioners. None of the owners of the Mark Granato property spoke at the hearing.

·        Montgomery County awarded a construction contract for the project to the lowest and best bidder on February 19, 2013.

Right-of-Way Acquisition Timeline

·      An appraisal of the Mark Granato property was completed on August 3, 2012. The appraised amount was $23,875. (Auditors appraised value of the entire property at 100% is $151,940, and the value of the entire property assigned by the project appraiser is $232,450.)

·         A review appraisal was completed on August 22, 2012, recommending that the value of $23,875 was appropriate for Fair Market Value.

·      Proximity to Mark Granato house – much has been made in the media about the bike path being 7 feet from the front of the house. Hundreds of homes in excellent residential neighborhoods of Montgomery County, including Germantown, Miamisburg, Phillipsburg, the Oregon District, and St. Anne’s Hill, have sidewalks much closer than that, down to essentially zero feet.

·       A Notice of Intent and Good Faith Offer Letter was sent to Mark Granato, et al, on September 25, 2012, as well as a letter (following unsuccessful attempts to contact by telephone) from the negotiator inviting the Granatos to meet to discuss the offer.

·         After no response was received from the Granatos, on October 29, 2012, a letter was sent to them indicating that Montgomery County would be filing an appropriation case with the courts and advising them of the process and their rights.

·       A Motion for Expedited Hearing on Issue of Declaration of Intention to Take Possession was filed in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court by the Granatos attorney, but not until Monday, August 5, 2013.

·         The Board of County Commissioner’s attorney filed a response to this Motion on August 8, 2013.

·         No counter-offer was received from the Granatos until today, August 12, 2013, in the amount of $452,000 for the 0.248 Acres being taken.

————————-

The Post & Email has contacted Mr. DeWeese to ask for his response to Mr. Martin’s statements.

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