Monday, January 15, 2001

Mason land seizure rejected

Water tower planned for site

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — A Warren County judge has dismissed a lawsuit that would have stopped Mason from building a $2.5 million water tower in Deerfield Township.

        Warren County Common Pleas Judge Neal Bronson recently ruled that Deerfield trustees could not seize six acres on Mason Road, owned by the city, for public use. Trustees had asked the court to allow them to take the land by eminent domain.

        Eminent domain gives a government body the right to take private property for public use so long as it pays a fair market value for the land.

        Township officials claimed they needed the land for a fire station and a park. Trustees argued their proposed plan was better suited for the area than Mason's water tower and would not devalue neighboring homeowners' property.

        But in dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Bronson said “the township's urgency to acquire the property for a fire station and park was manufactured.” He said trustees had expressed no interest in the land before Mason's purchase of it a year ago and to allow the township to exercise eminent domain “would actually be an illegal encroachment of a public utility established by the city of Mason.”

        Trustees said they were disappointed by the judge's decision and will appeal the matter.

        “It was just a bad decision,” Trustee Larry Backus said. “The judge's decision doesn't even take into account the people in that area that will be affected.”

        Mason City Manager Scot Lahrmer applauded Judge Bronson's decision, saying he does not think a water tower will devalue anyone's property.

        He said an appeal by the township would only be a further waste of Deerfield's tax dollars.

        Judge Bronson also ordered trustees to pay Mason's court costs.

        City officials estimate construction of the tower will take up to 18 months. The 2 million-gallon tower is de signed to improve water pressure for the city's service area south of Tylersville and Stitt roads and reduce the demand on the Shaker Creek Aquifer to the north of the city.

        When the tower comes on line in 2002, four subdivisions — Greenbrier, Birchwood Farms, Sunset Ridge and Heritage Club — will be switched out of that service area and supplied with water from the city's new connection with Cincinnati Water Works, Mr. Lahrmer said.


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