Reader: Eminent domain is legal, but not ethical

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Dear Editor:

The village of Lagrange posted a legal notice in the Chronicle Telegram, Sunday, Feb. 13 for the sale of property they have owned for 65 years. In 1956, the village took the property by eminent domain from a farmer for a water supply for the village. 

The farmer told the village: “I will give you water rights for the next 99 years, please don’t take my land.” 

The farmer continued to fight the seizure of his land. The village did indeed take the land by eminent domain and paid the farmer $14,000 for 32 acres. The farmer refused the money, and it is currently held by the Lorain County treasurer. 

In 1990, the village needed to spend $1 million on the water treatment plant and infrastructure to meet EPA standards, and the water supply was no longer sufficient to support the village’s growth. At that time the village stopped using the property, entered into an agreement to purchase water from Rural Lorain County Water Authority and has had no need of the property since. 

The farmer and his family continued to try to get the land back. The village has now put the property up for sale by sealed bid. Everything the village has done is considered legal. 

This story has been told hundreds of times over the past 30 years. At the end of the story, the question is always asked: “So the farmer got his land back, right?” No, he didn’t. 

In 1924, the city of Manhattan Beach, California condemned a beachfront property and seized it through eminent domain. The property was eventually transferred to the state of California and then to the county. In September 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that allows the property to be returned to the descendants. 

I suggest Mayor Strauss follow Gov. Newsom’s example and do the same “righting of the wrong.” Eminent domain may be legal, but there is a difference between what is legal and what is just and ethical. 

Marilyn Teeple
Lagrange Township

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