COVID-19 – Reopening Businesses

The Covid-19 virus has dramatically
changed the way we relate to each other and the way we do business.  As I write this, a million Americans have
contracted the disease, sixty-thousand people have died and 30 million have
been thrown out of work in under a month. 
On March 22 the Director of the Ohio Department of Health issued a “Stay
at Home” order requiring non-essential businesses to close.  “Social Distancing” was ordered and
gatherings of more than 10 people prohibited. 
Thousands of small shops, schools, universities, malls, factories,
non-profits, travel and leisure operations, music venues and sports events had
to close-up shop.

These steps were instituted so that
our healthcare system would not be overwhelmed. 
In Ohio it seems to have worked.  The
Director allowed manufacturing and construction to open May …

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Public Records Requests in Ohio

National publications like the Washington Post and the Wall Street
Journal have recently considered news of The Vindicator’s closing, and
suggest generally that local democracies will go only as far as their
local papers will carry them.  These articles assume that if the local
news dies, so does an informed citizenry.  

Local news organizations unearth and disseminate truths that
unorganized groups simply cannot. Having bright, articulate, experienced
and credentialed journalists on staff give them a natural advantage;
they know where to look. 

However, there’s something to be said for a curious citizen with a
smartphone, a pen, a pad of paper, and a Twitter account.  By leveraging
the provisions of Ohio’s public records laws with the wealth of public
information already …

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Incentives for Remediation

At one time our “Steel Valley,” was one of the great steel regions of
the world, hosting mills along the Mahoning River from Warren to the
Pennsylvania line. Fierce competition from overseas, followed by the
closing of Youngstown Sheet and Tube in the 1970s started a long slide
in industrial production in the region. Yes, a few of the old plants
have reopened, but great stretches of industrial land lie fallow, not
producing profits, tax revenues nor jobs.

However, the location and attributes that once made northeastern Ohio
attractive for industrial development – interstate highway systems,
water transportation via the Great Lakes and Ohio River, natural
resources, skilled workforce and proximity to markets – remain. The
exploration of natural gas and …

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Ohio’s Legacy Trust Procedures

Business clients typically minimize exposure to creditor claims by
using liability-limiting business structures, by maintaining appropriate
insurance coverages, by maximally funding qualified retirement plans
and by dispersing asset ownership within the family.

High-net-worth clients, whose activities subject them to
extraordinary claims, may now also use an additional tool to protect a
portion of their assets – an Ohio Legacy Trust (OLT).

Placing assets into a plain vanilla revocable living trust does not
shield them from creditors. An OLT is an irrevocable trust, the assets
of which are protected. An OLT is funded with “excess” assets – assets
that are not needed to take care of existing obligations and assets that
are not “already-protected.”

Step 1: Solvency analysis.  

 Assets are listed and debts deducted, along …

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Frequently Asked Questions about Solar Leases

Q: How long does a solar lease last?

A: The term of a solar lease is typically between 20 and 30 years

Q: What effect will the solar lease have on my property?

A: If you currently receive a special tax valuation (in Ohio
a “current agricultural use valuation,” in PA a valuation under Act 319) you
may lose that status and have your real estate taxes increase.  There may be a recapture of previous taxes
that were foregone.  Finally, the
installation of the solar facility may trigger a personal property tax.  The lessee should agree to pay these

Q: What does a solar array involve? 

A: A solar array involves row after row of dark panels mounted on posts. There might also be associated equipment …

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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

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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