Zoning – Oil and Gas issues

Regulating oil and gas via zoning
The last twenty years oil and gas drilling for Clinton Sandstone wells has moved into urban areas, as drilling locations in rural areas have been used up.  Under the concept of “home rule” enjoyed by municipalities, cities and villages enjoy broad police powers to regulate health, safety and public welfare.   As a result, a number of Ohio communities attempted to “zone-out” or otherwise regulate away drilling activity.  In State ex rel. Morrison v. Beck Energy Corp., Slip Opinion No. 2015-Ohio-485, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that a municipality could not impose its own stringent well permitting requirements on top of the state’s system of regulation.  The court found that under O.R.C. 1509, the Ohio Department …

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Zoning – Open Spaces

Open space preservation
Modern zoning planning has recognized the virtue of preserving open spaces, not only by establishing parks and recreation areas, but also by preserving the rural character of certain parts of communities and restraining urban sprawl.  This can be accomplished in several ways.  Agricultural zoning prohibits the use of land for commercial, industrial and residential purposes.  Cluster zoning assigns a given amount of land a certain amount of open space, but allows the developer flexibility in arranging the density of his buildings.  One portion of the project would be intensely developed, with open space aggregated to better effect elsewhere.
The last several decades have seen increasing use of Planned Unit Developments (“PUD’s”).  A PUD allows mixed use (residential and commercial, …

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Flexibility in Zoning Laws

Non-conforming uses
A nonconforming use is a use of property that predates the zoning code or, after enactment, was initially permitted, only to have the code subsequently changed.  The nonconforming use is allowed (O.R.C. 713.15) to continue because of the unfairness in forcing one who has invested in building in reliance on former law to be forced to cease operation and due to the fact that enforcing the new code against the “grandfathered” use may not be legal for constitutional reasons.  A nonconforming use may not be expanded.  Additionally, zoning codes typically provide that a use discontinued for a period of time acts as conclusive proof of the intention to abandon the use.
Conditional uses
A landowner may apply for an exception to …

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Township Zoning in Ohio

Overview
In Ohio over four million people live in unincorporated townships, the majority of which have enacted zoning ordinances.  Reasons include controlling what are, in the eyes of the community, inappropriate uses, dealing with growth pressures, and promoting economic development.
Governing Law
The authority for townships to enact zoning codes is found in Ohio Revised Code Sec. 519.02, which authorizes the regulation of the:
•    location, height, bulk, number of stories, and size of buildings and other structures;
•    percentages of lot areas that may be occupied, set back building lines, sizes of yards, courts, and other open spaces, the density of population, the uses of buildings and other structures;
•    uses of land for trade, industry, residence, recreation, or other purposes; and
•    landscaping and architectural …

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Zoning in Ohio – Overview

History
Zoning codes grew out of the limitations inherent in using the legal theory of nuisance as the sole tool for regulation of growth in American cities at the turn of the 19th century.  In that era, if a neighbor, for instance, was affected by the operation of a smelly slaughterhouse, he or she had to file a nuisance complaint in court and let a judge decide whether the noxious activity was appropriate for the neighborhood.  No planning was involved.  Issues relating to building uses, heights and location were handled by courts on an ad hoc basis.
Toward the end of the 19th century, new construction techniques (the first passenger elevators were installed in New York in the 1870’s) allowed construction of …

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Pipeline Installation and Current Use Taxation in New Hampshire

Would the installation of a pipeline pull the affected land out of the favorable “current use” valuation regime and cause it to be taxed more heavily?
Background
Northeast Energy Direct (NED) has applied to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a license to install a natural gas pipeline across southern New Hampshire.  The question has arisen as to the tax effect on an affected landowner under RSA 79-A, Current Use Taxation.  The issue: Would the installation of a pipeline pull the affected land out of the favorable “current use” valuation regime and cause it to be taxed more heavily?
What is the Current Use Tax rule?
New Hampshire has declared in RSA 79-A that it is the public purpose of the state to encourage …

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Regional Chamber Honors Johnson & Johnson with Award

The Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce has awarded our law firm with the ninth Canfield Area Council Business Pride Award.  This award recognizes our high ethical, moral and professional standards, as well as our commitment to economic development here in Canfield.  Our friends over at the Business Journal wrote a nice article about it.
It’s wonderful to be recognized for our hard work.  We feel very blessed doing business in Canfield, and are pleased to contribute to its growth.
 

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Joint and Survivorship rights

Joint and survivorship property is property owned by two or more people, with a special feature: at the death of one of the co-owners, that interest passes to the surviving co-owner or co-owners.  For example, let’s say three people, X, Y and Z are joint owners of a piece of property with survivorship rights.  In this situation, X, Y and Z each own a 1/3 interest in the property.  If X were to die, her interest would pass to Y and Z:  Y and Z would then each own 1/2 of the property as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.  Ohio law requires that this special right in property be created in a specific way.
A useful feature of joint and …

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Certificate of Transfer

When a real estate owner dies without a will, the Probate Court must determine to whom that real estate passes according to the laws of intestate succession.  Once the court determines the appropriate person to take the real estate, it will issue a certificate of transfer.  This document basically operates as a deed to the property, transferring the interests of the decedent to the appropriate heir or heirs.  But this does not happen automatically, and the administrator of the estate must apply specifically to the court to distribute the real estate in an Application for Certificate of Transfer for Real Property.  This application must be submitted to the court after submitting the inventory of the deceased person’s assets, but before …

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What is per stirpes? What is per capita?

Ohio’s intestacy statutes identify who is entitled to take from a decedent’s estate, and in what proportion.  Several of these provisions include an obscure legal term: per stirpes.  Per stirpes (and its counterpart, per capita), often show up in wills, as well.
Per stirpes is latin for “by the branch” while per capita is latin for “by the head.”  Despite these terms’ obscurity, they bear heavily on the disposition of an individual’s assets.  They are very much worth understanding,  and are best illustrated by way of an example.
Per Stirpes Example:
Husband marries Wife.  Husband and Wife have two children, A and B.  A has two children, X and Y.  B has no children.
If A passes away, and Husband’s will left his assets …

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