It's been a year since the Ohio Supreme Court ordered a state agency to compensate a group of landowners near Grand Lake Saint Marys for their losses from flooding.
It’s been a year since the Ohio Supreme Court ordered a state agency to compensate a group of landowners near Grand Lake Saint Marys for their losses from flooding.
This morning, state attorneys will explain to the justices why it’s hasn’t been done.
The court last year ruled that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources must compensate the 87 landowners in western Ohio. Last month, the justices ordered state attorneys back to court to explain the delay after the homeowners complained that the state was dragging its feet.
The state has “delayed, obfuscated and stonewalled ... (and) engaged in a three-month charade at settlement negotiations, ending in not one penny being firmly offered to resolve these cases,” Bruce L. Ingram, an attorney for the homeowners, wrote in a request that the state be held in contempt.
“ODNR counts on endless delay to work to its advantage, blunting this court’s ruling and allowing it to escape paying full and fair compensation.”
Ingram noted that many homeowners are elderly and one has died since last year’s ruling. The properties, in many instances, have been held for generations and provide retirement security and a legacy to their children.
State attorneys denied allegations that they are ignoring the court order.
The Department of Natural Resources “has moved diligently to meet the requirements” of the ruling, state attorneys said in a 197-page response to the allegations.
Since last year’s ruling, the state has hired appraisers and engineers to help determine how much to offer landowners while engaging in settlement negotiations, which ultimately broke off in July when landowners rejected a $24.2 million payoff.
“Although a global resolution could not be achieved, relators’ claims that negotiations were a ‘ ruse’ to stave off a contempt filing is not only offensive, it is simply untrue,” Assistant Attorney General Dale T. Vitale wrote in the filing.
At issue is a horseshoe-shaped dam the state built in 1997 that landowners say has led to significant floods almost every year since.