The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper


        Proponents of a bill that would amend state law covering how townships can reclaim unused cemetery lots testified last week before the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee.

        Matthew DeTemple, executive director of the Ohio Township Association, told the committee Tuesday House Bill 454 would clarify language in the current law.

        He said the state’s biennium budget for Fiscal 2016-17 included language that granted townships the right of re-entry for burial lots which had a deed of sale prior to July 24, 1986. It required township trustees to notify the last known lot owner by mail or by advertisement in a newspaper. If the owner doesn’t respond within 90 days, the township can reclaim its interest in the lot.

        Unfortunately, the language in the budget bill “did not permit the township to repurchase an unused lot from an owner that does respond within 90 days,” DeTemple said.

        Under HB 454, a township wanting to re-enter a lot sold before that date would be authorized to purchase the lot.

        Also, the bill increases the time lot owners have to respond to townships’ attempts to reclaim unused lots to 180 days from 90 days. It also requires townships to post any notification of re-entry on the township’s website, if there is one, in addition to the mail and newspaper advertisement requirements.

        The committee took testimony earlier last month from Rep. Steve Arndt, R – Port Clinton, and Rep. John Patterson, D – Jefferson, co-sponsors of the bill.

        Patterson said the issue came to his attention after a constituent attempted to buy an unused lot from a cemetery in his district. Although the cemetery could verify the lot was purchased in the early 1900s, no family member could be reached to determine if the lot would ever be used.

        “In essence, the lot had been vacated,” Patterson said. “While the township would like to sell the unused lot, because it was purchased prior to July 24, 1986, current law prohibits such a sale.”

        The Ohio Township Association estimates there are about 2,400 cemeteries in Ohio operated by townships and many charge about $500 for a burial lot.

        “For whatever reason the legislature missed all the lots sold before July 24, 1986, “ Arndt told The Press. “Now there is no way for the townships to re-enter those lots. So they sit there unused. Under this bill, the owners have a choice of being compensated for 80 percent of the original purchase price, or a different mutually agreed upon price or another lot. So there is flexibility for an heir to come forward. Also, township could be expanding a cemetery when they still have unused lots. “

        An analysis by the Legislative Service Commission notes that a 2009 opinion by the Ohio Attorney General’s office determined that a township could not reclaim its interest in sold but unused cemetery lots by arguing the burial easement was extinguished by non-use.

        Whether HB 454 would make it through a court challenge remains to be seen, according to the analysis.

        “Although the bill provides compensation to a pre-1986 lot owner who responds before the notice period ends, a court may find that applying the law to an owner who responds after the notice period ends constitutes and unlawful taking without compensation,” the analysis says. “This issue exists under current law and is not resolved by the bill. The option the bill provides to an owner to receive 80 percent of the original purchase price may not constitute due or adequate compensation in some cases.

        “For example, a lot purchased for $100 in 1920 may be worth $1,200 in 2018; $80 is significantly less than today’s fair market value and probably would not be considered due compensation. This is not an issue under continuing law for post-1986 lots because lot owners agree to be subject to the 80 percent term. In other words, the township is utilizing its contractual right to reclaim its interest in the lot and compensate the owner 80 percent of the purchase price as authorized by the statute.”





The Ohio legislature has passed a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. In practice, that would make abortion illegal after six weeks.
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