Stewart, Wald & McCulley, in a unique case, recently achieved a $327,000.00 settlement on behalf of clients who owned approximately 50 parcels of land in rural Decatur, Norton, and Phillips Counties, Kansas.
Not only did their clients receive compensation for temporary taking claims, they also received their land back. Stewart, Wald & McCulley originally filed the lawsuit against the United States Government in October 2015 following the Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU) filed on October 22, 2015. The request for trail use was filed shortly thereafter.
In most rails-to-trails cases, a request for trail use usually results in a trail use agreement for a recreational trail being finalized. However, with this case, the trail sponsor and the railroad’s trail use negotiations broke down after a series of extension requests made to the Surface Transportation Board.
The main concerns of Stewart, Wald & McCulley’s clients, who primarily consisted of farmers, ranchers, and rural industrial workers, were unwanted damages, theft, pollution, and a variety of problems a potential recreational hiking and biking trail would bring to their property and land.
In conjunction with litigating the property owners’ taking claims against the government, Stewart, Wald & McCulley advocated on behalf of their clients with Nebraska, Kansas & Colorado Railway when it became apparent the negotiations for trail use broke down and the trail sponsor backed out. The attorneys at Stewart, Wald & McCulley successfully were able to get the railroad to consummate abandonment of the railroad line even though there is no formal requirement that it do so. Since formally consummating abandonment allows the land to revert back to the landowners, they were able to take back their land for farming operations and were recently paid for the temporary take of the land. The landowners were very pleased to get their land back and be paid just compensation for the “temporary take” of the land.