Like others, alleges ‘taking’ of private property

A second law firm has filed a lawsuit, the third overall, against the federal government for authorizing public usage of land belonging to people who live along a 41-mile stretch of the dormant Beacon rail line. 

The suit, filed by the Lewis Rice firm, based in St. Louis, appears virtually identical to a pair of suits filed earlier this month by Stewart, Wald & Smith, another firm in St. Louis. The filings came after the federal Surface Transportation Board allowed Metro-North, which owns the line, to close it, opening the door for a sponsor to construct a rail trail. 

The board also allowed Metro-North to retain its right of way in case it chooses to reactivate the line, which runs from the city waterfront into Connecticut. Although a Metro-North representative said the agency has no plans to do that, the lawsuits argue that retaining the right-of-way violates the Fifth Amendment by seizing private property for public use without compensation. 

Stewart, Wald & Smith’s lawsuits were each filed on behalf of 86 landowners; the Lewis Rice suit is on behalf of nine. Both firms said they may add plaintiffs to their filings.

The suits seek compensation for the property owners for the land “taken” by the U.S. government and the diminished value of plaintiffs’ remaining property. The land in question was either condemned or had an easement applied when the rail line was laid in the 19th century but the current owners retain title. Because the land is no longer being used for a railroad, the owners should be compensated, the lawsuits claim.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Simms has covered Beacon for The Current since 2015. He studied journalism at Appalachian State University and has reported for newspapers in North Carolina and Maryland. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Area of expertise: Beacon politics

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