The National Association of Reversionary Property Owners (NARPO)
E-mail at: email@example.com
Internet page at: http://home.earthlink.net/~dick156
Richard Welsh, Executive Director
The National Association of Reversionary Property Owners (NARPO) is a group of property owners who have joined together to educate all landowners in the United States about the true ownership of railroad, utility, road and other governmental types of Rights-Of-Way (ROW).
Most users of ROWs (railroads and utilities) do not own the underlying land that the right-of-way is on; they only have an easement for a specific purpose. When this specific use is extinguished (railroad abandoned, road closed, utility moved to another location, sewer line not now needed), the land reverts back to the then existing abutting or adjacent property owner, free of encumbrance or easement. This is a well established constitutional and statutory precedence in all the states of the Union.
In Washington State, NARPO instituted a state Supreme Court case that declared unconstitutional a state law that attempted to take reversionary rights without compensation, Lawson v. State, 107 WA 2d 444. NARPO also challenged an amendment to the National Trails System Act of 1983, 16 USC 1247 (d), in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled 16 U.S.C. 1247(d) constitutional, but that private property was being taken and the property owners could take their "takings" claim to the U.S. Court of Claims, Preseault v. ICC, 494 US 1 (1990). Both the Washington State and the federal statute tried to take away reversionary rights and allow bike and pedestrian trails on private property without just compensation and due process which is against the express intent of the United States and all state constitutions.
While Preseault v. ICC did not give the results we wanted, we will have to live with the decision until Congress changes the law. In the last fifteen years citizens and groups have been lobbying Congress and state legislatures to not pass laws that abrogate private property rights as they pertain to reversionary property rights or any property right. Near the end of this article is a list of court cases that have restored the property rights to right of way abutters. While all the cases have not been won, there is hope on the horizon.
NARPO will work with any property owner or groups of property owners to further the preservation of constitutional rights. Our funds come from donations from property owners around the country and grants from a few corporations and national and state organizations. The U. S. Court of Federal Claims was to be the relief available to property owners if reversionary rights had disappeared because of a rails to trail conversion. The Federal Court of Claims, on May 22, 2002 in Preseault v. U.S., ruled once and for all that the reversionary property owner will get just compensation from the federal government for a rails to trails conversion. Preseault was awarded over $1.5 million for damages to his property and attorney fees accumulated fighting the government. The Federal Court of Claims is an option, but for small property owners it is not a viable option due to court costs. To overcome to cost factor, an attorney in Washington, D.C., Nels Ackerson, telephone number 202-833-8833, is filing class action lawsuits in each state and or on each rail trail.
Congress and local political action are the only available relief other than going to the Federal Court of Claims. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests at the local and federal level can also go a long way towards knowing what your political opposition is trying to do to you. Great progress has been made lately in educating and influencing Congress and some state legislatures in how they conceive the laws they pass. In 1995, Congress considered changing the current law so that groups taking the reversionary rights for a trail would have to pay the just compensation, not the U.S. government; that effort failed. NARPO and its members are now trying to have the laws rewritten so the trails groups pay the just compensation. Rep. Jim Ryun's, (R. Kan.) put a bill before Congress in 2000 that would offer some relief to property owners forced to have a trail through their property. Rep. Ryun's bill provided language in the bill that will make the trails group in local courts, not the federal government through the Court of Federal Claims, pay just compensation to the abutting property owners. The green organizations throughout the country mustered their congressional lackeys to defeat Rep. Ryun's bill.
NARPO welcomes any ideas and suggestions. If you know of an unused right-of-way, let us know its whereabouts and a contact person in the area. Also, any donations will be gratefully accepted. See the next page for the start of our brochure Railroad Rights-Of-Way: Who Really Owns Them.
A PROPERTY RIGHTS ISSUE OF THE YEAR 2010 AND BEYOND
Until the last thirty years, most people thought that the railroads owned the land that the railroad tracks were on. The purpose of this paper is to disprove that idea and educate the public at large about who really owns the land the railroad tracks are on and how to protect your property rights to your land. Also learn how to derail rails to trails projects as they affect your property right of reversion to the right-of-way.
The railroads started in the United States in the early 1800's and were concentrated around the east coast and middle Atlantic states. By 1850 the railroads extended to Indiana. In the early days of the railroad industry, the railroads acquired their right of way (ROW) by either outright purchase or by the granting of an easement from the settlers adjacent to the proposed tracks. As the railroad moved further west (Illinois), there was much open land that was still owned by the United States government so the railroads pushed Congress to pass laws for outright land grants to the new railroads. The first such law was the Illinois Land Grant, chap. 61, 9 Stat. 466 (1850) which granted public domain land to the Illinois Central Railroad in the states of Illinois, Alabama and Mississippi. Besides the grant of a ROW, the law also gave alternate sections of land on each side of the tracks to the railroad as an incentive to build the railroad. In the ensuing 20 years, Congress gave out numerous land grants to railroads, approximately 150 million acres all told. The two biggest grants were the Union Pacific in 1862 (c. 120, 12 Stat. 489) and the Northern Pacific in 1864 (c. 217, 13 Stat. 365). On the later grants, the alternate section grants went out 20 miles on each side of the centerline of the tracks. Congress put a stop to these grants in 1871 as the public mood had changed on giving away all that public domain.
In 1875 Congress passed the Law of March 3, 1875, better known as the General Right of Way Grant. This allowed railroads to build lines through public domain, but the right of way was only an easement for railroad purposes and was not an outright grant of fee interest. During the years before and after the Civil War, eastern pioneers in great numbers, were settling the west on Homestead Grant lands. When the railroads came through these homesteaded lands, the railroads obtained easements from the settlers for their lines. These easements were usually for the stated purpose of constructing, operating and maintaining a railroad.
In the late 1880's small railroads were starting up in the western states, but by this time most of the usable land was homesteaded or was designated as Indian reservations. These new railroads acquired most of their ROW from the settlers or Indians on easements for railroad purposes. If the land was still in public domain when the railroad came through, an easement was granted under the 1875 Act; then when the land was homesteaded later, the homesteader got a patent for the whole land without any reservation or exception by the government for the railroad ROW. The government usually reserved all or most mineral rights in homestead patents, but the patents are silent if there is an existing ROW on the land. This has led the courts to declare that the ROW's belong to the abutting property owner; not the railroad and not the government. Since the late 1800s the federal government has recognized that when land was patented to a homesteader which had a railroad right of way on the land, the homesteader owned the whole parcel of land subject only to the right of the railroad to use the right of way for railroad purposes. Once the railroad abandoned the rail use, the easement was extinguished; see 43 C.F.R. 2842(1)(a), 1976, to see the federal regulation concerning this issue. In 1980 the U.S. Department of Interior rewrote all their regulations and 43 C.F.R. 2842(1)(a) was not included in the new regulations, but was "saved" in the Appendix of C.F.R. 43 as there were thousands of properties that were still burdened by these government grant rights of way. Two federal courts have ruled in April 2005 that government grant right of ways belong to the abutting property owners, not the federal government nor the railroads. See:
Many new railroads were formed in the late 1800's. The economic turmoil of the mid 1890's caused some of the old and new railroads to start abandoning trackage or to just go out of business. Abandoning railroad ROW was a new phenomenon in the United States and there were few if any laws on the books to handle the situation so, of course, the Courts stepped right up to the problem and issued many narrow decisions on individual cases. The courts decided what was an easement and what was granted in fee simple.
There are three main types of conveyances that allowed railroads to acquire the ROW's for their tracks: 1) Federal land grant, 2) easement deeds sometimes called Right-Of-Way deeds, 3) some type of warranty deed or fee simple deed. ROW's were also acquired by adverse possession, state grant deeds, condemnation, or quit claim deeds. The courts have always differentiated between the Federal grants of ROW and the grants of the alternate sections of patent lands when they decide abandonment cases originating from the U.S. Land Grant Acts. The courts have found in almost every instance that the land grant ROW's were reversionary to the current existing abutting or adjacent property owner, but that the alternate section patent lands belong to the railroads or their successor in interest to the land. ROW's acquired by easement, condemnation, and adverse possession have been found by the courts to be reversionary to the abutting property owner upon abandonment of railroad purposes. ROW's acquired by warranty deed have usually been found to belong to the railroad unless there was some limiting language in the warranty deed that implied or expressed some type of reversion to either the original grantor or the existing owner. Some of the Right-Of-Way deeds even have implied or explicit reverter clauses in them, but that is not the general rule. Most Right-Of-Way deeds have language such as: "IN consideration of the benefits and advantages to accrue to me, I hereby donate, convey, and grant to the ___________ Railroad, a right-of-way ????? feet in width through my land for the construction, operation, and maintenance of said railroad and is herein described to wit: . .". These type of Right-Of-Way deeds have always been found to be reversionary upon abandonment of railroad purposes. The courts rely on the use of the term right-of-way and the use of the words "construction, operation, and maintenance of said railroad", or something to that effect, to be the key words in how deeds should be construed for reversionary purposes after abandonment.
In 1922 Congress passed 43 U.S.C. 912 which added new language on how the federally granted ROW's should be handled upon abandonment of railroad purposes. The common law until that time on the disposition of the ROW after abandonment was the abutting property owner, be it the government or the successor in title to the government, got the ROW free and clear. 43 U.S.C. 912 said if the ROW was within the boundary limits of a municipality, then the ROW went to the municipality free and clear, otherwise it went to the abutting property owner. . See http://www.propertyrightsresearch.org/2005/articles09/beres_v.htm and for the latest legal decisions on 43 U.S.C. 912.
All the foregoing was fairly complicated and unknown for the average person except for a few land use attorneys and railroad specialists. There are over 800 federal and state court decisions on the abandonment of different type of ROW's. Every state except Alaska and Hawaii has at least two decisions to look at; Washington State itself has handed down 47 decisions since 1891. Until the late 1970's, most people living next to railroad tracks assumed, due to ignorance of the 100 year history of these lands, the railroads owned the land the tracks were on. And, in fact, the railroad would sell on a Quit Claim deed any and all of the ROW's after abandonment, mostly to the abutting property owner who already owned the land because of automatic reversion from the abandonment. In the late 1970's a new face came on the scene; the "rails to trails" idea came into vogue. All of a sudden property owners were having 100's and 1000's of joggers and bicyclists using the ROW next to their home or business whereas a train used to go by once a day or once a week. None of these converted rail trails have been beneficial for abutting property owners, but some have been downright disturbing to the abutting property owners, both emotionally and economically.
A 35year study in Seattle, Washington on the conversion of a railroad ROW to a trail showed that the 300 properties along the trail had only a 31% increase in land value in the first 8 years that the trail had been in place. These 300 properties border on a 20 mile long urban lake in Seattle and the average property (land) value is $198,000. In the same 8 years, inflation had gone up 67%, the average land value in the local county had gone up 146%, the average land value of the other properties on the same urban lake had gone up 206%, and the average land value of the next row of properties immediately above and behind, but not abutting, the trail had gone up 126%. As can be seen, the proximity of the trail has decreased the probable total value of these properties. In this case, the abutting property owners did not exert their property rights because the attorneys they hired after the abandonment were too incompetent to dig out the easement deeds and the court precedents. Urban trails such as this one are nothing more than strip parks, and parks normally lower property values for the abutting neighbors due to increased traffic counts, loss of privacy, and major and minor crimes. The study was updated again in 2013 see at: http://home.earthlink.net/~dick156/BK-Trail-values.xls For a copy of the study, see NARPO's web site at: http://home.earthlink.net/~dick156 or contact NARPO at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In 1983 Congress passed an amendment (Public Law 98-11)(now codified as 16 U.S.C. 1247(d)) to the National Trails System Act of 1968 which had the effect of requiring the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) not to certify any more railroad abandonments in the future. The rationale behind this scheme was to prevent the ripening of reversionary rights after abandonment. As of January 1, 1996, the ICC has been terminated as an independent agency of the federal government. They are now called the Surface Transportation Board (Board) and are part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. This paper will use ICC where the ICC did the action and STB for actions after January 1, 1996. Congress was very explicit in 1983; the new law was intended to preempt state property laws on reversion of ROWs by using the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Since the early 1900's, the ICC has had the regulatory power over the railroads for rail line formation, routes, tariffs, and abandonments. In May of 1986 the formal rules of the 1983 law were announced to the public and the railroads were the only ones happy with them. The trails groups appealed and the abutting property owners appealed the rules but for opposite reasons. The property owners and the trails groups filed a joint appeal to the U.S. Appeals Court, D.C. Circuit in National Wildlife v. ICC and Beres v. ICC, 850 F2d 694 (1988) which, when decided, left the rules intact like the ICC wrote them, i.e. favoring the railroads and not favoring the property owners, but now favoring trails groups.
On December 24, 1986 the Washington State Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional a Washington law that took away reversionary rights of abutting property owners after abandonment. This law, RCW 64.04.180, gave the abandoned ROW to any trails group that wanted it with no compensation to the abutting owners. This case is cited as Lawson v. State, 107 Wn.2d 444. Our group, the National Association of Reversionary Property Owners, filed and financed this suit.
In June 1987 the U.S. Supreme Court issued two very important property rights decisions in favor of private property owners; The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glendale v. Los Angeles County and Nollan v. California Coastal Commission. The Church case addressed the "temporary taking" issue which is what the whole effect of 1247(d) is about. 1247(d) says that after abandonment, a trails group, public or private, can come in and use the ROW temporarily until such time as the railroad might want to use it again for railroad use. The Supreme Court later calls this a "physical invasion" of private property, see below Preseault v. ICC, 1990. In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled again very strongly for property rights in Lucas v. S.C. Coastal Commission, 120 L.Ed 2d 798.
A Vermont property owner challenged the constitutionality of 1247 (d) after the STB (the ICC became the STB in 1995) turned down his request to issue an abandonment approval on a railroad that had not been used for 14 years. The ICC instead invoked 1247 (d) and would not issue an abandonment certificate so the property owner could get his land back. The property owner ended up taking his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ruled that 1247(d) was constitutional, but that property owners could get "takings" compensation in the U.S. Federal Court of Claims, Preseault v. ICC, 494 US 1, 1990. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled in Feb. 1994 against Mr. Preseault. A three judge panel of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals also ruled against Mr. Preseault on appeal on Sept. 14, 1995 with a ridiculous decision which said he did not get compensation because he should have known in 1920 that the ICC could take his land. In other words, Mr. Preseault should have made a claim in 1920 notwithstanding the fact he was not even born much less owned the land in 1920. More Clinton appointee's gobbledygook! This bad decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals was vacated on November 15, 1995 by the other judges on this court. See page 7 of this booklet for the final decision on this. It turned out very favorable.
Our group, the National Association of Reversionary Property Owners (NARPO), works out of its Seattle, Washington area office and travels around the country giving talks to interested property owner groups. Every state has some railroad ROW's that are reversionary after abandonment so it behooves everyone to be on the alert to possible future abandonments. Normally most railroad abandonments are less than 30 miles in length though some extend over 200 miles as in a 1988 abandonment in Missouri. The railroads do not have to give much notice to the public when they intend to abandon; just a notification to all the local shippers that used the line and a notice to the state department of transportation, etc.
The Rail to Trails Conservancy, a trails group in Washington, D.C., keeps track of all possible abandonments and rushes out to the area and tries to get a local trails group or local government entity to say they want to exercise their option under 1247(d). If a group comes forth, the STB will not issue a full abandonment certificate, just a partial certificate to allow the railroad to pull up the track, ties and ballast. Any group can come forward and say they want the ROW for a trail; all they have to do is say they will pay the taxes and take the liability away from the railroad. This could be a private entity with no financial backing, but the STB does not have the wherewithal or desire to make sure that the entity can actually manage the trail.
The railroads are not supposed to remove their bridges when they abandon so the liability of open bridges must fall on someone. Surely not on the railroad as the STB order absolved them, probably not on the trails group because they are probably insolvent, which leaves the abutting property owner or the U.S. government to foot the cost of an accident. This problem is one of the serious shortcomings of 1247(d), but no one wants to address it. Another problem with the "rails to trails" scheme is that a lot of ROW's bisect or section out a large piece of property. The courts have historically ruled that when a property is bisected by a ROW, the legal ownership of the whole ROW belongs to the abutting property owner. Normally when a ROW borders a piece of property, the owner on each side get the ROW to the center line of the ROW. The courts have ruled, quite logically, that an owner granting a ROW through the middle of his property for some kind of ROW would never deed away all rights to the ROW. In the absence of explicit language in the conveying deed, the courts always rule in favor of the abutting property owner when a question arises who owns the ROW after abandonment.
This leaves us today with a bad law on the books, 1247(d). Also everyone should be on the lookout for attempts being made at the state legislative level to make or change laws regarding reversionary interests in railroad ROW's. One of the main agenda items of the Rails to Trails Conservancy is to get state laws enacted to make all ROW's into bike trails. Here again, it is easier to kill the proposed bills then go to court or try to repeal the law later. Try and get on the mailing list of the legislative committee that is likely to be hearing this type of bill. Have your local lobbyist search through the list of proposed bills and look for key words such as railroad, ROW, trails, and reversionary rights. Also, a lot of states now have their legislative bills and agendas, real-time, on some Internet server during the legislative session. Learn how to access these new Internet services made available free by the different state legislatures.
If you discover that a railroad ROW is being abandoned near or through your property, there are a few things you can do to forestall the trail effort. First off, you need to get the support of your neighbors and the other abutting property owners to the ROW. An organized group is what the rails to trails zealots hate most. You also need to get the local government officials on your side early on; this is usually hard to do but is a must if possible. You need to get on the STB Service list for your abandonment by writing to the Surface Transportation Board, Office of the Secretary, Service Section, Washington, DC, 20423, and stating that you want to be on the Service list for AB??-???. Of course you need to know the abandonment number (AB??-???) which you can get from the STB at 202-245-0245 and tell them the name of the railroad and the towns and counties (parishes) the abandoned line goes through.
The latest scam the rails to trails zealots are using to get funds for these trails is the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and after 1999 the new name is TEA-21 (Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century) and after 2005 it is called SAFETEA. SAFETEA money is 100% of your federal gas tax that you pay to the federal government, now set at 28 cents a gallon. SAFETEA allows 10% of federal highway money to go for "enhancements" which means bike trails. SAFETEA allocates over $700 million dollars a year from our gas tax for trails. To get this SAFETEA money, trail zealots get appointed to the regional transportation organizations (RPTO and MPO) that were set up to divvy up the ISTEA , TEA-21 and now SAFETEA funds throughout the state. Your group needs to be very diligent in getting to these MPO and RPTO meetings throughout the year. Your state Department of Transportation (DOT) office can tell you how to contact your MPO or RPTO. Believe me, these MPO folks do not have your best interest at heart.
In 2009 Congress passed MAP-21 which is the latest gimmick by Congress to waste the federal gas tax we all pay for roads. While MAP-21 has some restrictions on the use of the gas tax money for trails, the trail zealots have found ways around some of these restrictions.
NARPO has testified to the U.S. House Appropriations Committee about the bad effects of rails to trails projects on the U.S. Treasury. Not only does the federal government use our gas tax to pay railroads for property they do not own, the government will also have to pay the property owners through the U.S. Court of Claims for just compensation for the taking of the reversionary rights.
Another thing your group can do is unelect any official that does not believe in property rights. If an official does not support you 100%, then they are against property rights and should be unelected. This is an ingrained battle any way you look at it. The trails zealots are trying to steal your land without compensation to you while they are using your money (SAFETEA funds) to pay the railroads for something they do not own. Besides that, they are allowing hordes of people to traverse your property without your consent. Any government official that does not believe in property rights, does not belong in office. Numerous trails have been stopped when local officials were unelected. If you are organized, then you can usually stall off the trail until the next election. That is why the trail zealots try and hide their negotiations until they have your land.
There is another avenue for shippers and local property owners when it comes to abandonment of rail lines. Anyone with the financial ability to acquire the rail line and operate it can step forward at the time the abandonment application is being processed by the STB and acquire the rail line. The federal statute that allows this "forced sale" is 49 U.S.C. 10904 and federal regulations 49 C.R.F. 1152.27 implement this statute. These laws allow anyone to step forward and buy the operating rail line for its "net liquidation value". Net liquidation value is the salvage value of the rails and ties plus the value of the right of way land the railroad owns in fee title. In that railroads generally do not own any fee title to their rights of way, there is usually not a great cost to acquiring the rail line through the forced sale procedures. If you intend to acquire a rail line through the forced sale procedure, you need to have your ducks in a row and your finances all set up as there is only a 10 day window to make your application for the forced sale. You will need legal help in these forced sales and the best attorney in the country for this is Tom McFarland. This is all Tom does in his practice. He can be contacted at 312-236-0204 in Chicago.
We don't ask callers to pay for time or information supplied, but as you can imagine, it is costly. Instead, we rely on the generosity of people like you. Individual donors provide the funds to run NARPO. They do so because they believe in our mission, and they know NARPO is well managed. Our phone number here at NARPO is 760-238-8420; ask for Dick Welsh. We are in the Pacific time zone 3 hours earlier than east coast time. We welcome calls about railroad abandonments and reversionary rights and property rights. For those that are in farm country, your state farm bureau may be willing to help. Communications among reversionary property owners is important if we all are to prevail in maintaining ownership and control of our properties. Let us hear of the victories, actions or problems you are aware of.
Important Events of the Past Twenty Years
November 1995-Louisiana property owners unelect a 27 year state senator who supported a rail to trails project, and they helped elect a property rights governor.
January 1996-Victory for property owners in Michigan. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that an abandoned right of way could not be put in as a trail because it would be impossible to put the right of way back to a railroad in the future. Belka v. Penn Central RR. , Cause no. 93-2457, Jan. 10, 1996 (unpublished)-call NARPO for a copy.
March 1996--Victory for property owners in Indiana. U.S. Supreme Court affirms U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit where the ICC did not have jurisdiction to issue a NITU, 3 months after ICC had granted abandonment, Fritsch v. ICC, 59 F.3d 248 (1995).
March 4, 1997--NARPO testified before the U.S. House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee about how rails to trails effects the U.S. Treasury badly. See the testimony on NARPO's web site.
June 10, 1997--The Indiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of thousands of property owners in Indiana who own land abutting railroad rights of way. The Supreme Court ruled the railroads could not sell easements for fiber optics or other utilities in the right of way without paying the reversionary property owners for the easements; contact Nels Ackerson, the property owners' attorney at 202-628-1100.
June 10, 1997--The Indiana Supreme Court also ruled today that property owners could have a class action lawsuit against various railroads to collect fraud damages where the railroads sold abandoned rights of way for trail and other purposes. For further information on these cases contact NARPO of the attorney representing the property owners, Nels Ackerson at 202-833-8833.
December 30, 1997-The Federal D.C. Court of Appeals rules in favor of Kansas property owner by agreeing with the property owner that the railroad had consummated abandonment when it removed the rails and ties. Once an abandonment has been consummated, no Trails Use Agreement can be signed and the STB loses jurisdiction to issue trails use agreements. See Becker v. STB, Case No. 95-1481, USCA D.C. Cir., December 20, 1997
August 21, 1998--The U.S. Court of Federal Claims agreed to a class action lawsuit for the 2,000 property owners who have had their reversionary rights taken by the 130 mile Katy Trail; a rail trail across Missouri. See NARPO's web site for information on the class action lawsuit. http://home.earthlink.net/~dick156
October 1998--A class action lawsuit is filed in federal Court for all property owners in the United States who have had reversionary rights taken because of the federal rails to trails law. This class action lawsuit is limited to only $10,000 per property. Anyone with a higher claim should go to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. for their just compensation. Contact Nels Ackerson at 202-833-8833.
July 1999--A class action court case in Indiana ruled in favor of property owners who owned land abutting railroad rights of way and gave each property owner $45,000 per mile of right of way for trespass action of AT&T when AT&T put fiber optic cables in the right of way without the abutting property owner’s permission. See the June 10, 1997, item above. Contact Nels Ackerson at: 202-833-8833 for information.
December 1999--The class action lawsuit against the federal government for compensation for rails to trails taking of reversionary interests is settled by the federal court. This is just the first part of this case and damage hearing before the court are the next step. Contact Nels Ackerson at: 202-833-8833 for information.
April 2000--The Federal Court of Claims rules that a rail trail needs to be only 8 feet wide. This will really put a crimp in some trail developers plans as they need a wider right of way so they can sell the right of way for other purposes. Not that selling the right of way for other purposes is legal, but that never stopped trail zealots before. Something legal is only for stupid law abiding citizens!!
June 2001--a federal court ruled that MCI/WorldCom illegally trespassed on thousands of property owners who owned land abutting railroad rights of way. The court made MCI/WorldCom remove their digging equipment and restore the land or make agreements with the property owners for compensation. See the Press Release below in MS Word format. Click on: http://home.earthlink.net/dick156~/ACKERSO3.DOC
August 2001--Midwest property owners win a lawsuit worth hundreds of millions of dollars on fiber optic cables in railroad rights of way. Contact Nels Ackerson at 202-833-8833 for information.
May 22, 2002--Paul Preseault is awarded over $1.5 million for the taking of his reversionary interest in an abandoned railroad right of way. The trail is 1200 feet long and 8 feet wide. A good portion of this award was back attorney fees and back interest on the damage award. See NARPO's web site for details.
May 2003—Missouri property owners win compensation from the federal government for the taking of their reversionary rights for a bike trail. See the NARPO site for details.
June 2003—Two California property owners win their compensation case against the federal government on the taking of the reversionary rights on a railroad right of way for a trail. Details are on NARPO’s web site.
April 2004—Northampton, Mass., property owners win a lawsuit that gives them they reversionary rights to a rights of way that was proposed for a bike trail. The win effectively killed the proposed bike trail. See NARPO’s web site for media articles on the case
April 2005—Two very important federal court decisions on government grant right of way. See http://fedcir.gov/opinions/03-1395.pdf and http://www.uscfc.uscourts.gov/Opinions/Horn/05/HORN.Beres.pdf
**November 20, 2007-The following link is to a great court win for northwestern Ohio residents who have been battling their local park district since 1997 about a trail through their property. The park district built a trail and would not pay the resident for the taking even though the residents owned the land. The residents went through many court fights at the local level which they lost, but they prevailed at the Ohio Supreme Court on November 20th. Now the park district either has to pay all their court costs and just compensation for the land taken, or the park district must remove the trail which is probably what will happen because of the costs. But the resident’s attorney fees and costs will have to be paid anyway by the park district as the residents were very smart and sued under laws that allow attorney fees and cost to the prevailing party. Usually under American law, you have to pay your own attorney fees whether you win or lose, but there are some laws that allow recovery of attorney fees and costs which is why it is important to choose an attorney that knows what they are doing (most don’t) when it comes to property rights. See the case results here- http://www.supremecourtofohio.gov/rod/newpdf/0/2007/2007-Ohio-6057.pdf
8/4/2008--Here is an article about a Seattle bike trail costing $9 million a mile to put on a flat surface already prepared. This is another example of a liberal government gone amok with taxpayer’s dollars.
8/10/2009--On July 8, 2008 the Surface Transportation Board (STB) which controls and has jurisdiction of railroads in the United States had a public hearing on the First 25 years of the Rails To Trails program. The STB accepted written comments and also had spots available for interested speakers. NARPO and six others requested to speak. Sixteen groups or individuals chose to send in written comments. You can view the video of the hearing at: http://www.stb.dot.gov/stb/audiomee.nsf/71c35e25bd34f1f68525653300425877/5f58b4e01b190790852575ed0060efa6?OpenDocument
12/19/2011—Here is a story about some Kansas property owners who have been battling a cheap and lazy trail group over an abandoned railroad right of way. The trail zealots arguments are childish. Enjoy! http://www.mcphersonsentinel.com/news/x2127213762/Controversy-continues-over-rails-to-trails-project
3/14/2013--NARPO Members, this is an update about the monetary settlement of a nationwide class action lawsuit against RRs and fiber optic companies that laid fiber optic cable in ROWs that were reversionary.
The Court that decided the lawsuit mandated the RRs and fiber optic companies to research every owner of property abutting any of the ROWs involved with this lawsuit which encompasses 46 states. The RRs and fiber optic companies were also mandated to send a letter to each abutting property owner identified in the research explaining the court settlement. As far as I can tell, the letters were sent at the same time they were required to post legal notices in nationwide magazines. If you look in last Sunday's Parade Magazine, you will see a notice. The web site I mentioned in the previous email, has a map of the United States. You can click on your state and see which properties are involved when you click on "Settlement Corridors" for each state selected. You can also read about the settlement, but it runs over 140 pages. Not all ROWs in a state are involved; in fact only a fraction of the ROWs in a given state are involved because the RRs and fiber optic companies did not use every ROW. You can see the nationwide map at this URL. https://fiberopticsettlements.com/
3/6/2014—The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in the case Brandt v. United States that the federal government does not have any interest in abandoned railroad rights of way in lands that the federal government patented years ago. This is a case where the little guy stood up to the US Attorney General who wanted to take land back the government sold or patented over 100 years ago. See the Supreme Court decision below which is in line with NARPO’s brief. http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/12-1173_nlio.pdf
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Enclosed is my contribution to "National Association of Reversionary Property Owners", an educational foundation established to help pay expenses and legal fees associated with the education and protection of property rights of reversionary property owners. Tax deductible, under IRS code 501(c)(3).
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Reversionary Property Owners
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