I'm anticipating a neighbor will be filing a petition with the county to have a ditch installed through my property in order to drain his farmland faster. (This is my personal property, not one of my rentals). The way the law works in Ohio - any landowner can petition for drainage improvements on their property by filing a petition and $750 with the court, the county engineer assesses the situation and draws up plans and costs/benefits, there are a couple of hearings, and then the county commissioners decide whether to approve the project.
Oh - and the impacted landowners have to pay for it.
In this specific case, Soil and Water told us at a residents' meeting that the guestimated cost, based upon other similar projects, would be $150k. My favorite part of the meeting: my neighbor and I share a wooded lot, and between the two of us it is at least 1500' long. The S&W rep said they would clear a 75' swath for installation of the ditch, right through the woods. (The ditch will likely be 8' wide - I'm guessing they need 75' for bulldozer races) When asked if we would be compensated for our loss of trees, here was the response: "We're not going to take your trees - we'll leave them laying right there for you to do with what you want when the project is over." Sigh.
So as I'm getting my ducks in a row to deal with this petition, I'm wondering if anyone out there has been party to one that has any insights or advice?
Let me know if I'm posting this in the wrong forum - Legal Issues seemed to be the best fit.
I have not had direct experience with a ditch, but I've been involved in a couple road widenings and other easement issues. I'd certainly look for an attorney with experience in eminent domain and other government - private party real estate issues.
Skimming the links below leads me to believe you have a couple courses of action depending on case the law.
- There is a potential argument that the ditch is not for a public purpose.
- If the ditch does not benefit your property, you may be able to argue against bearing any of the cost.
- Argue the cost to your property is greater than the benefit to the farmers property.
- You should be compensated for the public easement, plus the loss of trees, even if they are left behind.
Thanks Darrin. Interestingly, the compensation for the public easement...is that the land on the easement is removed from the property tax rolls. So that will save me like $1/year.
And you're on the same track I am - evaluating the reduced value of my property (and of the potential value of the trees) as a hedge against the farmer's increased value. I need to find out if anyone has successfully done that. The Soil and Water guy (who has handled dozens and dozens of these petitions in the last 15 years) suggested that they will always presume my land becomes MORE valuable with a ditch through it. I guess I'll start digging through County engineer and County Commissioner data to see if that's really true. And find out if there is a local lawyer who has ever handled a ditch petition.
Find a rare animal or plant species on your property. This will tie up the requirement for years before they discover the indigenous people's graveyard on your side of the property.
Don't forget to contribute to your favorite animal advocacy and put a few coins in the slots at your local Indian casino, just as a way of giving thanks.
@Rick H. - I like how you think!
Dont you want a nice big garage , I thing the best location would be where they plan to put the ditch . If you get the permit before the hearing it would give you a better argument . Does your area have conservation easements if so put that section in conservation so that it cant be disturbed for 20 years . Can the property be subdivided ? If so get a preliminary drawing done , and then you can show that the ditch takes away lots of value .
@Matthew Paul - The conservation easement is a great idea...there are actually 3 of us who own the woods where this would go...and all 3 of us would be perfectly happy to leave that land untouched forever. I'm going to research that option. We actually can't subdivide (original lot owner split the 60 acres into our 3 lots, and gave us a deed restriction that we couldn't subdivide). Ironically - if we could subdivide - it gives more weight to the ditch being installed. Water in Ohio is considered the enemy of the people - if I lose a little land to a ditch, but it moves extra water off the rest of my property, the county will say my land is now MORE valuable.
And I'm still looking for that endangered animal hidden in my woods. I'd love to find Bigfoot.