Editorial: Give back cities’ property rights and protect public health

Columbus and four other Ohio cities should not have had to go to court three years ago to preserve the right to protect public property and the integrity of public water supplies. The Ohio General Assembly never should have passed a law allowing property owners along public reservoirs to trespass at will on public land, mowing and cutting down plants and trees meant to protect drinking-water supplies from pollution.

Thankfully, the pending lawsuit filed against the state by Columbus, Westerville, Akron, Barberton and Lima has prevented the freedom-to-trespass provision, which was slipped into the 2015 budget bill without debate, from taking effect.

Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Holbrook said he expects to rule by the end of November, but the hold will likely remain as the fight is expected to continue on to the Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court, “no matter what I decide.”

The problem, as Republican Sen. Kris Jordan of Ostrander saw it in 2015, was that people who paid a lot of money for properties next to pretty reservoirs were being prevented from doing whatever they wanted to the public land that surrounds those reservoirs.

Cities with foresight made sure to acquire those buffer strips when reservoirs were created, expressly so private homeowners couldn’t threaten the water quality by mowing all the way to the water’s edge and building waterside structures willy-nilly.

Of course the desire to enjoy a scenic view is understandable, and the city of Columbus has a process by which reservoir neighbors can apply for approval to place structures or trim vegetation to create “view corridors” without putting water quality at risk.

Unfortunately, someone with the city in recent years evidently was overzealous, ordering the removal of harmless but unauthorized structures such as a birdhouse and threatening someone with jail for mowing down the city’s buffer grass. City officials acknowledged as much and said it wouldn’t happen again.

But that bureaucratic bad behavior served as Jordan’s justification for trampling on cities’ rights for the benefit of a few who want to treat public property as their own.

We hope courts will restore cities’ ability to control public property and protect public health.

Plan to revive empty block is worth some loss

On a historic block of North High Street that has been vacant and/or declining for decades, restoring two distinctive buildings to new life is worth losing a smaller building in-between.

That’s the contention of developer Ricky Day, who is seeking the Downtown Commission’s approval to tear down 78 N. High St. to create light and open space between the White-Haines building to the north and the former Madison’s store to the south. He’s been working for years to restore the buildings; he says he has a conditional lease for three floors of the Madison’s building but that it won’t come together unless he can have the space in-between to allow light and better access to the buildings.

Day has done remarkable work transforming areas of Gay Street and the Short North. The North High Street block has resisted renovation for a long time, and his track record suggests he can make it happen. Saving the bulk of the block would be a win for Downtown.

Read the original article here.