Federal Takings

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Federal Takings

Ellen Balagna and Mark S. Balagna, et al v. The United States of America — Case No. 1:14-cv-00021-EDK

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Ellen Balagna and Mark S. Balagna, et al v. The United States of America — Case No. 1:14-cv-00021-EDK

Arent Fox represents more than 45 Fulton County, Illinois landowners who have filed their inverse condemnation claims against the federal government. These landowners own land abutting a 14.5-mile long right-of-way extending from Dunfermline to Farmington in Fulton County, Illinois.

The Macomb, Vermont & Bath Railroad (later it changed its name to “Peoria & Hannibal Railroad Company”) originally acquired the right of way in the mid-1800s. The Macomb, Vermont & Bath Railroad went through several changes of ownership until, eventually, the line was acquired by the Great Northern Pacific & Burlington Northern Railroad Company (GNP&BNRC) in 1970. After several mergers, the GNP&BNRC came to be known as the BNSF Railway Company in 2005. Under Illinois law, once the Railroad abandoned the line, the landowners (and their successors) should have owned their land free and clear of any easements.

On January 4, 2013, the Railroad filed its request to abandon the right of way. On January 23, 2013, the Canton Park District filed a request for trail use for the right of way.

On May 24, 2013, the federal Surface Transportation Board issued an order of Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment (NITU), which authorized the Railroad to negotiate with Canton Park District for trail use. This federal order — the NITU — prevented the landowners from regaining their state law rights to the land.  And instead, the federal order allowed two new easements to be imposed on the property — one for recreational trail use and another for future railroad use at anytime in the future. The Railroad is currently in negotiations with Canton Park District to sell the right-of-way for a public recreational trail.

The Illinois landowners filed their claims for compensation on January 8, 2014. Counsel for the landowners continues to meet with all interested Fulton County landowners to discuss their claims for compensation in this case.

For more information about this case, please contact Meghan S. Largent.

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