Ulmer & Berne LLP, an Ohio-based law firm, announced a win over the Ohio City of Wadsworth in four consolidated appropriation cases filed by Wadsworth against owners of land in Wayne County.
The Cities of Barberton and Wadsworth entered into an agreement giving Wadsworth an easement to establish and operate a well field on property owned by Barberton in Chippewa Township, Wayne County. The City of Wadsworth plans to run a 6.5-mile pipeline between the Chippewa Township property and the city's existing public water system. The City's proposed route for the water line crosses the landowners' properties. Wadsworth City Counsel passed resolutions stating the necessity for easements across the properties and authorizing the city to file appropriation actions against the landowners. Under the law, those resolutions are prima facie evidence of necessity, and the landowners were required to prove an abuse of discretion by the City Counsel.
Ulmer & Berne attorneys Robert J. Karl and J. Gregory Smith worked on behalf of the landowners. They argued that the City of Wadsworth abused its discretion by determining that the water line easements were necessary without first obtaining from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) a plan approval for a well at the Chippewa Township property. In addition, they argued that the City had failed to negotiate in good faith with the landowners.
The landowners had expressed to the city the concern that the operation of the proposed well field would affect their private wells. Also, one of the landowners, KDD Miller Farm Partnership, had raised significant concerns regarding their ability to conduct farming operations given the proposed location of the water line easement across their property.
Presiding Judge Mark K. Wiest agreed with the landowners, finding that the City of Wadsworth abused its discretion in determining the necessity of the water line easements without having first obtained Ohio EPA approval of a well and failing to negotiate in "good faith" with the landowners and respond to their concerns. The court has directed the defendants to propose a final entry for court approval within the next 45 days.