“THIS IS A MATTER FOR THE COURTS TO SETTLE”
by Sharon Rondeau
(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:
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
· 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.
Sharon Rondeau has operated The Post & Email since April 2010, focusing on the Obama birth certificate investigation and other government corruption news. She has reported prolifically on constitutional violations within Tennessee’s prison and judicial systems.