A plan for a trail network connecting areas of Lebanon and Turtlecreek Twp. with the region’s continuous 330-mile trail network was approved Tuesday after a debate with affected property owners.
“I want to stop it right now,” farmer Tom Groh said during a debate Tuesday at a Warren County Board of Commissioners meeting.
The board voted 3-0 to adopt the 44-page conceptual plan for the network, proposed through meetings of a group formed as part of the Lebanon Turtlecreek Trails Initiative (LTTI).
Before approving the plan, the commissioners pledged not to use eminent domain to take land for the trails.
“There is not any intent for a taking,” Commissioner Pat South said.
Montgomery County took land for a trail adjoining the Austin Boulevard widening project, including a section taking the trail within eight feet of a property owner’s front door.
A 2012 lawsuit between the county and property owners, the Granato family, was settled through mediation in 2014, according to court records.
The trail has been built along with the road widening, east of Austin Landing and other development around the Austin Boulevard interchange at Interstate 75.
While pledging not to take any land for the LTTI network, Warren County officials are expected to seek state and federal funds to begin work.
The first sections are expected to be built near Union Village, a mixed-use planned community to include up to 4,500-homes, retail and a sports complex on Ohio 741 near the Otterbein retirement community and Warren County Armco Park.
Ultimately, planners want to connect to trails along the Little Miami and Great Miami rivers, as well as others in the regional system, called the longest continuous network in the U.S.
But Groh and other land owners with large tracts along the proposed path of the LTTI route expressed concern that Tuesday’s vote, including the trail plan in the county’s thoroughfare plan, was a step toward infringing on their property rights.
Officials said state and federal funds expected to help pay for the project cannot be used for projects using eminent domain proceedings to acquire land for the trails.
Commissioner Dave Young said opposing the proposed network routes could cost property owners when they went to sell their land for redevelopment.
Multi-use trails are popular amenities in new subdivisions like those planned on some of the farms owned by the property owners who questioned the need for the plan.
“I think you are shooting yourselves in the foot,” Young said.
The property owners charged they had been ill-advised of the process.
“We’re not here to say we don’t want it,” farmer Chris DeBord said. “Nobody has contacted us. That’s our beef.”
While establishing the notifications made, media coverage and public meetings held during the LTTI process, the county planners agreed to work harder to notify affected property owners as the plan became reality.
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