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City council OKs eminent domain suit to acquire land

To make improvements to the Center Street Boat Ramp entrance, the Ironton City Council authorized an eminent domain lawsuit against the Center Street Landing LLC, owner of the Ironton Boat Club.

In a regular meeting Thursday, council adopted an ordinance authorizing city solicitors Bob and Mack Anderson to file the suit against Bob Johnson, owner of the Dockside Grill. Johnson leases the 73,111 square foot property from the city under a 30-year lease that began in 1988.

The city is filing to obtain 927 square feet of property at the front edge of the business' parking lot to accommodate for improvements that will be made to the floodgate entrance.

Eminent domain is a power of government agencies to acquire property for public use if they pay "just compensation." Public uses for which eminent domain can be used include schools, parks, roads, highways, fire and police stations and public buildings. A government entity can exercise this power even if the owner does not wish to sell the property.

Johnson said last month that he understands why the city is filing it and would probably do the same thing.

However, he said they just couldn't agree on a deal and believes the city is unwilling to follow federal guidelines involving roadways and easements.

He is content to let a jury in the Ironton Municipal Court decide the amount.

Cleary said both sides have tried to work out an agreement but could not come to terms. Overall, the improvements are much needed and "the safety alone will enhance the entire riverfront."

The city hired Tri-State Appraisal, Inc., Chesapeake, to determine the value of the triangular section of land. Based on the $600 a year lease and other factors, they determined the property is valued at $8.34, Cleary said.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Watercraft, the Army Corps of Engineers and Norfolk Southern Railroad have approved the plans for improvements.

The single-lane entrance will be widened to two lanes to allow more visibility and room when crossing the railroad tracks. Signs, lights and curbs will also be added.

The project is expected to take three months to complete once work begins. As soon as the eminent domain case is filed, the project will be opened for bids. The city will solicit bids for a complete closure of the entrance and as a one-way traffic closure.The alternate access from Second Street will be open.

This $230,000 project has been in the works for about three years. The Huntington-Ironton Empowerment Zone and ODNR's Waterway Safety Fund funded the project.

After tabling for two weeks for public input, Council adopted an ordinance in support of naming the planned Russell-Ironton Bridge the John Campbell Memorial Bridge, in honor of Ironton's founding father.

The name was originally proposed by local historian Virginia Bryant and supported by the Lawrence County Commission.

"John Campbell has been part of our history since day one," Cleary said last month. "It is only fitting the bridge be named after him."