A class action lawsuit on the federal level targets the establishment of the Albany County Rail Trail. Neighboring landowners claim the purchase of an easement by the county robbed them of their property rights, and they're seeking compensation from the federal government.
continued The railroad company never owned the corridor, he continued, but rather had an easement established over private land.
Albany County acquired the Rail Trail easement in 2009 from the Canadian Pacific Railway using $700,000 in grant money. The railroad company moved to abandon the 9-mile section of rail in 2003 and the county at that time launched the process to acquire the corridor through “railbanking,” the term established in the 1983 Trails Act for converting disused railways.
Wald argued that law robs landowners of their property rights.
“If the government had allowed state law to run its course, then the railroad line would have been abandoned and the landowners would have been entitled to possession and control,” he said.
The lawsuit is being leveled against the federal government and local entities are not involved. In fact, local officials were unaware of the lawsuit.
Bethlehem Supervisor John Clarkson said he was not familiar with the matter, but reaffirmed the town’s commitment to work with the county and independent groups to see the entire length of the trail opened. The Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, a private group that has made efforts to open up public access to the trail, was similarly unaware of the lawsuit. Officials in the Albany County Executive’s Office declined comment, pointing out the county is not a party in the action.
A call to the U.S. Department of Justice, whose lawyers are handling the defense, was not returned.
Wald declined to discuss exactly what kind of compensation he’s hoping to secure, but said his firm has reached a “tentative agreement” with the federal government to work towards a settlement. A joint appraisal process will get underway later this year, he said, and that will determine what kind of damages might be paid out.
The federal government would pay any damages awarded.