Forbes, 071221 OHAGO, 2021-016

Docket Nº2021-016
Case DateJuly 12, 2021
CourtOhio
The Honorable Jeffrey D. Forbes
No. 2021-016
Ohio Attorney General Opinion
Ohio Attorney General
July 12, 2021
         Symmes Township Law Director 600 Vine Street, Suite 2500 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202          SYLLABUS:          1. For purposes of R.C. 5553.04(B), a township road is an established public road if it satisfies the requirements of R.C. 5535.01(C).          2. For a road to be established through the process of dedication, there must be both a dedication of the road and a showing of acceptance of the dedication on behalf of the public.          3. A road that has not been constructed or improved might, but will not always, constitute a township road for purposes of R.C. 5553.04(B).          4. Whether a particular road in a township qualifies as an established public road is dependent on both the specific facts of the case and upon the laws in effect at that time—the question entails a case-by-case analysis.          Dear Law Director Forbes:          You requested an opinion regarding a portion of an unimproved right-of-way, commonly known as a “paper street.” Your question involves the applicability of R.C. 5553.04(B). You state that an owner of nearby land petitioned Hamilton County to vacate a portion of an unimproved right-of-way known as Willow Road. (I will use “the Road” when referring to the relevant portion of Willow Road.) Upon examining the Road, you are uncertain if the Road constitutes a township road for purposes of R.C. 5553.04(B). Specifically, you ask:
Can a portion of unimproved right-of-way, often referred to as a paper street, constitute a “township road” for purposes of R.C. 5553.04(B)?
         Though you ask a single question, I find that the answer has four parts. First, I find that a township road, as used in R.C. 5553.04(B), is an established public road that satisfies the requirements of R.C. 5535.01(C). Second, establishment of a public road by the process of dedication requires acceptance on behalf of the public. Third, a currently undeveloped or unimproved road might, but will not always, constitute a township road for purposes of R.C. 5553.04(B).          Lastly, whether a particular road in a township qualifies as an established public road is dependent on both the specific facts of the case and upon the laws relating to establishment in effect at the relevant time—a determination that must be made on a case-by-case basis.          Before moving on, it is important to note a caveat. While this office is empowered to provide legal opinions on questions of law, the office is unable to resolve factual disputes. See, e.g., 2001 Op. Att’y Gen. No. 2001-026, at 2-144. Because the question whether the Road is a township road for purposes of R.C. 5553.04(B) will turn to some extent on factual questions, therefore, a definitive answer cannot be provided.          I          A          I begin with the background necessary to answer your question. Here are the relevant facts, which I will assume true for purposes of this opinion. You state that, on its face, the Road is a “paper street,” which means that the Road is neither constructed, improved, nor maintained by Symmes Township. In addition, Symmes Township collects no gasoline tax in relation to the Road. You also state that the Road exists only on a plat showing...

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