5501.50 Leases of real property not immediately needed for highway purposes for agricultural purposes.

(A) As used in this section, "agricultural purposes" means commercial animal or poultry husbandry, or the production for a commercial purpose of field crops, tobacco, fruits, or vegetables. "Agricultural purposes" also includes algaculture meaning the farming of algae.

(B) Whenever the director of transportation acquires real property as provided in section 5501.32 of the Revised Code or otherwise acquires real property in fee simple in the name of the state for highway purposes and subsequently finds the property is not needed for such purposes, or will not be needed for such purposes for a period of two years or more following the date of acquisition of the property, and the property is adjacent to or in the near vicinity of property used for agricultural purposes, the director may, at the director's discretion, offer to lease the property for agricultural purposes for one year at a price consistent with rentals of adjacent agricultural lands in the manner provided in divisions (C), (D), (E), (F), (G), (H), and (I) of this section before conveying or transferring the fee simple estate or any lesser estate or interest in the property, or permitting its use by another.

(C) Real property shall be offered for lease by mailing a notice, in writing, to each person who owns or leases property being used for agricultural purposes that adjoins or is in the near vicinity of the property. The notice shall include a general description of the property offered for lease, the cost of the lease, the manner in which the lease will be made, the requirements of this section, a statement that the person shall notify the director in writing within no more than four weeks following mailing of the notice if the person is interested in leasing the property, and such other information as the director considers necessary.

(D) If the director receives information in writing from two or more persons who are interested in leasing the real property, one of whom is the owner of real property that adjoins the property offered for lease, the director may lease the property to that person. If the director receives such information from two or more persons, two or more of whom are owners of real property that adjoins the property offered for lease, the director shall lease the property to the person whose information is contained in the envelope bearing the earliest postmark.

(E) Any lease made under this section shall be conditioned upon the lessee's written agreement to maintain weed control on the property. If the director has reasonable cause to believe that such an agreement is violated, the director, or any of the director's authorized agents, may, at the director's or authorized agent's discretion, do either of the following:

(1) Provide necessary weed control. The expense of providing weed control shall be paid by the director out of any appropriation to the department of transportation available for the establishment, use, maintenance, or repair of highways and the amount thereof shall be reimbursed by the lessee to the department and if not reimbursed the amount thereof shall be certified to the attorney general for collection by civil action against the lessee of the property.

(2) File a complaint by petition in the court of common pleas of the county in which the property is located. Upon a finding by the court that a violation of the agreement exists as alleged in the petition, the court shall enter an order of abatement against the lessee of the property.

(F) If real property offered for lease as provided in this section is located near a highway where the use of the property for crops such as corn and wheat will obstruct the view of any part of the highway from a person operating a vehicle on the highway or on an intersecting highway or private road, or near an airport where such use of the property may interfere with airport safety, any lease made shall be conditioned upon the lessee's written agreement to use the property for only crops that will not create such an obstruction of the view of the highway or interference with airport safety. If the director has reasonable cause to believe that such an agreement is violated, the director, or any of the director's authorized agents, may, at the director's or authorized agent's discretion, do either of the following:

(1) Remove the crop or such part thereof as may be necessary to ensure that the view of the highway will not be obstructed, or that airport safety will not be reduced. The expense of the removal shall be paid by the director out of any appropriation to the department of transportation available for the establishment, use, maintenance, or repair of highways and the amount thereof shall be reimbursed by the lessee to the department and if not reimbursed the amount thereof shall be certified to the attorney general for collection by civil action against the lessee of the property.

(2) File a complaint by petition in the court of common pleas of the county in which the property is located. Upon a finding by the court that a violation of the agreement exists as alleged in the petition, the court shall enter an order of abatement against the lessee of the property.

(G) The director may offer to renew annually any lease of real property made under this section to the current lessee or may offer the opportunity to lease to others in the manner and subject to the requirements and limitations as provided for in this section.

(H) The requirements of sections 5501.32 , 5501.34 , and 5501.45 of the Revised Code relating to the appraisal, advertisement, manner of sale, and minimum sale price of property not needed for highway purposes and the requirements of sections 5501.34 and 5501.45 of the Revised Code relating to the use of property not needed for highway purposes for recreation purposes, do not apply to a lease or renewal of a lease of real property made in accordance with this section.

(I) Except as provided in divisions (E)(1) and (F)(1) of this section, all expense incurred in the lease of real property under this section shall be paid out of the proceeds of the lease and the balance shall be deposited in the highway fund from which the purchase of the real property giving rise to the proceeds was made.

(J) Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the director to acquire real property by appropriation for the purpose of leasing it for agricultural purposes.

Amended by 129th General AssemblyFile No.82, HB 276, §1, eff. 6/4/2012.

Effective Date: 04-05-2001