(WKBN) – The Mill Creek MetroParks Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday evening to continue the legal process of extending the MetroParks Bikeway.
The board voted to take the bikeway issue to the Ohio Supreme Court. Lawyers will ask the court to determine whether the MetroParks can take property through eminent domain for recreational use.
After a 30-minute executive session, MetroParks executive director Aaron Young read a prepared statement, detailing the next step in the legal process to complete the MetroParks Bikeway.
“In an effort to see this 30-year initiative to completion and to also limit the risk of additional financial liability to the MetroParks, it is apparent we should accept the recommendation of the legal team to move forward with appealing the recent decision of the 7th District Court of Appeals to the Ohio Supreme Court,” he said.
Young said that if the legal process was abandoned at this point, the MetroParks would have to pay the legal fees for all remaining outstanding lawsuits. Young did not know what that amount would be. The MetroParks would also have to return a $3.4 million federal grant that would pay to extend the bikeway six miles from Western Reserve Road to the Columbiana County line. It would be the final phase of the bikeway that runs north and south through Mahoning County.
“We feel pretty confident that the appellate court was wrong,” said MetroParks lawyer Elizabeth Farbman.
Farbman believes the Ohio Supreme Court wants to see a case like this.
“In order to settle it, once and for all, across the state of Ohio as to the power of MetroParks such as Mill Creek,” Farbman said.
The need to appeal to the Supreme Court came after a ruling last month by the 7th District Court of Appeals in the case of Diane Less, one of 13 landowners whose land is needed to extend the bikeway. The appeals court ruled in favor of Less, stating that the MetroParks could not take her land through eminent domain.
Farbman outlined what the Supreme Court will be asked to do.
“This specifically will speak to the right of MetroParks to undertake eminent domain for the purposes of creating a recreational trail,” Farbman said.
The MetroParks has already spent $336,000 in legal fees on the bikeway case. Young did not know what the additional cost would be. Farbman did not know when the Supreme Court would hear the case.
There was also discussion at Monday’s meeting about the future of the McGuffey Wildlife Preserve in Coitsville Township. Once again, members of the William Holmes McGuffey Historical Society asked that it be maintained. Commission chairman Lee Frey asked that, at the next meeting, legislation be prepared to return the preserve to the Society.
Three people living on Boardman’s Pinewood Drive asked the board to reconsider building a parking lot between Pinewood and the East Golf Hike and Bike Trail. Trees have already been removed, though no construction contract has been issued.
A new police union contract was also ratified. Officers will receive pay raises of 3 percent, 3 percent and 2.5 percent over each of the next three years.