The Canal Winchester Times

Farmer says mulch company is dumping on her land

Police chief, Madison Township trustee say issue should be handled in court or by Columbus code enforcement

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Madison Township farmer Kathleen Walsh says she's turned to goat-herding to overcome long-term unemployment, but due to a dispute with neighbor Ohio Mulch, her new pastures aren't looking very green.

Walsh, who lives at 4444 Winchester Pike, said the farm has been in her family since 1945. She told Madison Township trustees April 16 that she's currently unable to expand her goat herd because Ohio Mulch dumped construction debris and fill dirt onto her grazing pastures.

"This dumping extends about 25 feet into my property and runs about 200 feet along my property," Walsh said. "My understanding is that the township can enforce a nuisance (complaint), like illegal dumping, and Ohio Mulch is dumping on my property, which is in Madison Township."

After Canal Winchester City Council declined to allow Ohio Mulch to build a new location in that city, the company purchased a former Plantland store at 4480 Winchester Pike in 2012 and opened for business in 2013. At the time, then-Madison Township Fire Chief Robert Bates and his Fire Prevention Bureau worked with Ohio Mulch to meet new fire code regulations related to the storage of mulch, which in bulk can be a fire hazard.

At that time, Bates said improving a property that had been vacant for more than seven years and putting it back into use would be a plus for Madison Township.

According to Walsh, some of those "improvements" have included large cement block storage bins for the mulch and other materials. She told trustees she believes Ohio Mulch began dumping on her land as a way of building up an earthen wall to support the concrete blocks from being dislodged by tractors moving materials in and out of the bins.

Ultimately, Walsh said her complaint isn't just with Ohio Mulch, but also with Madison Township for failing to cite the company for illegal dumping.

"I can't even put my goats in those pastures at this point because they've damaged my property. So why can't our police cite them, since they are damaging my property that is inside Madison Township?" Walsh asked.

Township Administrator Susan Brobst said when Walsh originally complained to the township earlier this year, she referred the situation to the police department and assumed it had been handled.

Police Chief Michael Ratliff said he doesn't believe this is a police matter, that it should be handled through civil litigation.

"We referred it over to the superintendent of the (Ohio Mulch) site who was supposedly working in good faith to resolve this with you," Ratliff told Walsh.

Walsh said the company had originally negotiated a settlement with her, but then reneged on it, and has continued to dump materials on her property, forcing her to spend the past week standing at her property line to keep workers further dumping from occurring.

Calls to Ohio Mulch were referred to attorney Kristin Chek, general counsel for Ohio Mulch Supply Inc. Repeated phone calls to Chek were not returned by ThisWeek's press time on Monday.

"I don't understand why someone in Columbus can come into Madison Township and break the law and we don't enforce it," Walsh said. "I'm required under my federal land program agreement to maintain my pastures a certain way and they're dumping metal pipe and treated lumber along with fill dirt onto my property, which puts that in danger."

She gave trustees photographs of the material being dumped and other documentation of her efforts to get various Madison Township, Columbus and Franklin County agencies to come to her aid, all of which have so far failed, she said.

Trustee Gary McDonald reiterated Ratliff's response and said he believes this should be handled through civil litigation. McDonald said the situation might be better dealt with through Columbus code enforcement.

However, trustee Victor Paini said this was the first he'd heard of the situation and wanted to try being an advocate for Walsh.

"I appreciate you bringing this to our attention. I think this is the first time at least two of us have heard about this, and we'd like to be an advocate for you," Paini said.

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