Jackson County pays $52 million for a rail road line and then loses title to it.
Jackson County tried to do an end-run around the Rails-to-Trails Act and ends up with nothing in return for millions of dollars. The ruling here is not something new. It is based on long-standing legal principals that protect land owners. If a railroad stops using its right of way, pulls up the tracks and puts the line to a use inconsistent with its original purpose – to run railroad tracks – then the property owners get the land back. That is exactly what Jackson County did here and now the owners should get the land back. The legal consequences are staggering. The land actually went back to the landowners as soon as the county took these actions. That means the County has been using private property without paying compensation. The County will owe those owners essentially back rent under the principal of “inverse condemnation.” IF the County wants to keep the property for a trail use, it will have to negotiate with the owners or use eminent domain to re-purchase what it already paid millions of dollars in the first place.
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