Vt. Supreme Court backs rail decision

MANCHESTER -- The Vermont Supreme Court has upheld a lower court decision that states a local company owns an old rail bed that went out of use in the 1930s and runs through a number of properties.

The decision, releasedx

Friday, is in regard to Old Railroad Bed LLC v. Ronald A. Marcus and Kristi Marcus. It also lists Bradford West, Vernon West, Cathy Cushing, and Donald and Eleanor Dykes as defendants.

Manchester developer William Drunsic owns Old Railroad Bed LLC and in 2009 purchased a former railroad bed owned by OMYA Inc. near North Road with the intention of turning it into a walking trail.

The defendants claimed that Old Railroad Bed did not own the property because it would have reverted back to its original ownership status when it stopped being a railroad. The matter was addressed in Vermont Superior Court Civil Division which ruled in favor of Old Railroad Bed.

According to the Vermont Supreme Court's decision, the defendants all own property adjacent to the railroad bed which was deeded by the defendant's legal predecessors in 1902 to the Manchester, Dorset & Granville Railroad Company (MD&G). Tracks were laid the following year and in 1904 the railroad began operating, its main function being the moving of marble.

The Vermont Marble Company bought MD&G stocks in 1913. In 1918 rail operations stopped, started again in 1928, but by 1934 all operations has ceased and the railroad tracks were removed. Vermont Marble merged with OMYA in 1992 then sold the railroad bed in question to Drunsic's company for $34,614.

The Marcuses objected to Drunsic's trail plan, so he sought an injunction against them as well as a writ of possession for the railroad bed property. The other defendants were granted intervenor status and became involved in the court case. They also filed a counterclaim which the Superior Court did not agree with.

They appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court on two grounds, the first being that MD&G possessed an easement at best, one that reverted to the original owners when the railroad ceased to be. They claimed this because they believed MD&G acquired the land through some form of eminent domain, and under the law it would revert back to its original owners, or their legal successors, when it stopped serving the purpose it was acquired for.

The Vermont Supreme Court ruled that the defendants had not presented enough evidence to show the land had been acquired in that fashion.

The defendant's second claim was based on "adverse possession" meaning the defendants had been using the property for other purposes for long enough that they had a claim to it. According to the decision, the defendants did not dispute the lower court's facts, but the conclusions drawn from them. The Vermont Supreme Court found those arguments unpersuasive.


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