Stop government abuse of private property; save our wetlands
Organized by: Ruth Leslie
On December 26th 2014 Portage County Engineering entered our property without prior notice and without permission and removed trees to the value of $20,000, most of which were well beyond the public right of way. On contacting the county and the Ohio Department of Transportation, who are partnering with the county on a bridge replacement program, we were told that these governmental agencies are not obliged to contact home owners in this type of situation and that the county has the right, at their discretion, to remove trees without providing compensation. This is in direct violation of both the US Constitution and the Ohio Constitution. Because our property is a high-quality wooded wetland area, these actions are also in violation of the federal laws that protect wetlands.
We have had the right of way marked by a state-certified surveyor, the trees valued by a certified aborist, and the damage to the wetland area assessed by a certified environmentalist. Portage County and ODOT declined to discuss the matter with us. We therefore retained the services of an attorney, incurring substantial legal costs. Citizens of Ohio, and particularly of Portage County, should be outraged that the County has sought to have the case dismissed on the grounds of "governmental immunity", stating that as a government entity, the county has the right "to do what it likes" with impunity.
It is time that all US citizens stand up and show their local governments that in fact nobody is above the law. We need to hold our county and ODOT accountable for their actions. It is not acceptable that they should enter onto private property, well beyond the public right of way, and engage in theft and vandalism under a blanket of "immunity". Their actions, in placing illegal woodchip fill in a wetland area, and in pushing large piles of debris to the creek edge, are a violation of the Clean Water Act, which is a federal law. Unfortunately the Ohio Court of Claims denied our motion for an emergency restraining order, while the Portage County Court has yet to make any ruling on this issue, 3 months later. The violation to our constitutional rights as property owners is an outrage, as is the willful and reckless destruction of an important natural resource.
We ask for your help to provide funding to continue to fight this outrage. We have already spent in excess of $35,000 of our own money and are concerned that continued legal costs will make it impossible for us to continue. We would also like to see our wetlands restored. If you care about the rights of property owners and the health of your environment, please consider donating to our cause.