Lewis Rice Wins $12 Million in Compensation for Atlanta LandownersFebruary 16, 2023
Lindsay S. C. Brinton and Meghan S. Largent, attorneys from Lewis Rice’s Federal Takings & Rails to Trails Practice, won $12 million in compensation for 21 landowners in Atlanta who brought takings claims against the federal government. The claim resulted from the conversion of an abandoned railroad easement into the Atlanta BeltLine, a public, 22-mile recreational hiking and biking trail, which crossed or trespassed on the landowners’ property.
The BeltLine seized the landowners’ property in 2017. That same year, they sued the landowners to remove various encroachments on the trail right-of-way, including fences, garages, gardens and a basketball court. Many of these structures had been in place for more than a decade. The owners lost their state case and, as a result, were forced to remove these improvements from the land and were prohibited from any further use of their property within the former railroad easement. The BeltLine then proceeded to clear the old-growth forest behind the landowners’ homes, which provided a barrier between the adjacent golf course and the trail.
The landowners filed a claim for compensation in the United States Court of Federal Claims in 2019. Now, the landowners have vindicated by proving their property belonged to them and was taken in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
“These landowners are relieved that they have finally received just compensation for their property that was taken from them,” Largent said. “The BeltLine may ultimately be a successful urban recreational trail, but it has come at significant cost to these landowners who are hosting it in their backyards.”
Lewis Rice's federal takings attorneys represent landowners throughout the United States pursuing takings claims against the federal government. One primary focus of the group is representing landowners in what is commonly referred to as rails to trails takings. Attorneys in this group litigate cases in the United States Court of Federal Claims on behalf of those whose property was taken by the federal government pursuant to the National Trails System Act, which authorizes abandoned railroad lines to be converted to public parks. The goal is to obtain compensation from the government for the taking of their land for the public recreational trail. The attorneys in the Federal Takings Practice Group focus on both proving the taking has occurred as well as establishing the value of the property that was taken. Their national work for landowners includes representing landowners coast-to-coast, including 11 states.