Government denies owing property owners along Swamp Rabbit extension

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The federal government denies owing payment to Upstate property owners in their claim for payment for former trail rights along a planned extension of the Greenville Health System Swamp Rabbit Trail, according to court records. Filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the government’s answer denied taking private property rights for the 3.29 miles of an abandoned railway corridor.

In an amended complaint, plaintiffs – which included the Greenville Airport Commission and nine others – argued that they regained exclusive rights to their property when the railroad stopped operating along the route, and thus abandoning the railroad easement. The complaint, filed against “The United States of America, Defendant,” alleges that the land in question had not seen rail traffic since 2005, and alleges that the owner’s efforts to sell the easement to build an extension of the Swamp Rabbit Trail require “just compensation” to property owners.

“The railroad easement was granted for the operation of a railroad and not for any other purpose,” according to the amended complaint, submitted by Clayton, Mo., attorney Mark F. “Thor” Hearne. “Under the terms of the relevant easement instruments and under South Carolina law, once the Railroad ceased operating across the right-of-way, the railroad easement was abandoned and Plaintiffs, as the fee owners, regained their right to he exclusive use and physical possession of their property.”

The government’s answer, filed by U.S. Department of Justice attorney Emily Meeker, denied taking private property rights for the 3.29 miles of an abandoned railway corridor, and requested the action be dismissed.

Neither Hearne nor Meeker could be reached in time for publishing.

Other plaintiffs include Sykes, Workman Leasing LLC; Airport Warehouse of Greenville; Avir Greenville LLP; Linda M. Campbell and Sandra L. Campbell; Glenn L. Fenske Jr. and Mary J. Fenske; Finn Properties LLC; Bryan J. Germann; Joseph W. and Ramona K. Marquez and Orlin Preston Petit, according to court filings.

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