Thursday, February 27, 2003

Mason wins appeal in land purchase dispute

By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Warren County neighbors Deerfield Township and Mason are still trying to resolve litigation that dates back to a 1999 land dispute.

On Monday, the 12th Ohio District Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's ruling that Deerfield Township must pay $45,604 in attorney fees and court costs. The bill was from a legal battle over a 6-acre parcel along Mason Road, where the city's water tower has since been built.

Deerfield sued Mason after the city purchased the land for $385,000. The township tried to use eminent domain to get the land, which trustees wanted for a park and fire station.

Under eminent domain, a government body has the right to take private property for public use, but it must pay fair market value.

A judge dismissed the suit in December 2000. The township appealed, but later withdrew it. The city also filed a motion to get attorney fees and court costs covered.

"The decision (Monday) from the court of appeals reinforced what had been previously decided," Mason City Manager Scot Lahrmer said. "This is just a protection of taxpayer money that had to be expended in order to defend a frivolous suit against the city."

Mason officials said they gave the township "every chance" to settle the case. The city also plans to pursue the costs of the appeal, which Mason Law Director Kenneth Schneider estimates at $20,000.

Deerfield Township officials have not decided whether to appeal. Trustees are likely to discuss it Friday.


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