Atlanta, GA (July 19, 2023) - Stewart, Wald & McCulley, a Missouri law firm specializing in Rails-to-Trails litigation has recovered $573,630.75 from the federal government on behalf of two landowners as a result of the Atlanta Beltline conversion in Atlanta, Georgia.
The landowners’ property is along a 4.4-mile stretch of abandoned railway from the I-75/85 underpass to Glenwood Avenue, just north of Beulah Heights University. This portion of the abandoned railway was converted to create the Southside Trail segment of the Atlanta Beltline. The Atlanta Beltline is a 22-mile recreational trail loop that connects neighborhoods around the City of Atlanta.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the Atlanta and West Point Railroad was granted an easement to establish rail service along portions of the railway. The line was most recently owned by CSX Transportation, Inc., which had the same easement rights for railroad purposes when they abandoned it for a recreational trail purpose.
On January 3, 2018, Atlanta Beltline Inc. officially requested to use the defunct railroad corridor for the extension of the Atlanta Beltline recreational trail. The Surface Transportation Board approved the project under the National Trails System Act (“Trails Act”) and issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use on February 6, 2018. The Trails Act permits the conversion of abandoned railroad corridors into nature and hiking trails, which simultaneously preserves the right of way for possible future railroad use, a federal process known as railbanking. The process prevents the land burdened by the railroad easement from reverting to the adjoining landowners, and gives the trail sponsor a new easement, thereby blocking the rights of the landowners to regain their property within the corridor.
Stewart, Wald & McCulley filed the lawsuit, Sam & Son Wholesale Group, Inc., et. al. v. United States, Case No. 22-412, in the United States Court of Federal Claims on April 8, 2022. After 1 year of litigation, counsel for the landowners were successful in reaching a settlement with the federal government. As of July 2023, twenty-three landowners have received their settlement payments along this 4.4-mile segment of the Atlanta Beltline. This is Stewart, Wald & McCulley’s fifth successful rails-to-trails case representing landowners along the Atlanta Beltline conversion.
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