Arent Fox represents more than 45 Newton County, Georgia landowners who have filed their inverse condemnation claims against the federal government. These landowners own land abutting a 14.90-mile long right-of-way extending from Newborn to Covington in Newton County, Georgia.
The Middle Georgia Atlantic Railway Company (MG&AR) originally acquired the right of way in the late 1800s. The Middle Georgia Atlantic Railway Company went through several changes of ownership until eventually the line was acquired by the Norfolk Southern Corporation in 1982. In 1989, Norfolk Southern leased the line to a short-line carrier, the Great Walton Railroad. In 2010, both Norfolk Southern and the Great Walton obtained authority from the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB) to discontinue service over the line. Under Georgia law, once the Railroad abandoned the line, the landowners (and their successors) should have owned their land free and clear of any easements.
On July 1, 2013, the Railroad filed its request to abandon the right-of-way. On July 26, 2013, the Newton Trail Path filed a request for trail use for the right-of-way.
On August 19, 2013, the federal STB issued an order of Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment (NITU), which authorized the Railroad to negotiate with the Newton Trail Path 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 the Newton Trail Path to sell the right-of-way for use as a recreational trail.
The Georgia landowners filed their claims for compensation on May 9, 2014. Counsel for the landowners continues to meet with all interested Newton County landowners to discuss their claims for compensation in this case.
For more information about this case, please contact Meghan S. Largent.