On another issue, landowners across Illinois have received requests from railroad companies, but the issue could be more widespread. That includes some here in Vermilion County that have been contact by Norfolk Southern.
An attorney with Illinois Farm Bureau’s Office of General Counsel says landowners should not sign a “license” for a private railroad crossing without first seeking advice from a knowledgeable attorney.
“This (letter) appears harmless because the railroad is not explicitly saying, ‘We’ll take away your crossing.’ The problem is, if you sign a license, it can later be revoked,” said IFB attorney Garrett Thalgott.
In fact, landowners may already have an easement, which may be legally much stronger than a license, according to Thalgott. The easement may not be in writing, but may be implied by law, and give the landowner “the right to use this crossing.”
By signing a license, Thalgott said, “It may be trading a strong landowner right for a weak one.”
In addition, the license offered may specify the railroad would be responsible for maintaining the crossing between the tracks, making the landowner responsible for the rest of the crossing. “A railroad bed is more than just the tracks,” Thalgott said.
The attorney urged landowners not to sign any license for a private railroad crossing and to speak with a lawyer who understands easements.
If you have questions about this topic, or other issues when contacted by a utility company for a project, please let the Vermilion County Farm Bureau office know. There may be others that have been approached, and Farm Bureau could then set up a meeting to provide more information on protecting your private property rights.
Easements, Rail Crossings Could Affect Property Rights
Vermilion County Farm Bureau has become aware of utility easement request related to the Ameren transmission line that runs from Sidney to the Bunsenville substation west of Georgetown. The line runs across Vance, Jamaica and Carroll Townships, affecting more than 30 landowners.
The terms in previous easement expansions were much broader than the rights
granted to Ameren in the existing easements and the compensation offered by the
company was not commensurate with rights given up by landowners.
Vermilion County Farm Bureau wants to remind you that:
-- You should NOT sign any easement until you have consulted with legal counsel.
-- If you don’t have a copy of your current easement, you can and should request a copy
of it from Ameren or Volkert (the company Ameren has hired to contact landowners).
You could also check at the Vermilion County Recorder of Deeds office.
-- You do not have to give Ameren permission to survey your land for the new easement.
-- You do not have to agree to the amendment to your existing easement that doesn't
meet your needs
Farm Bureau members that have been contacted by Ameren or Volkert, Inc. are urged to let the Farm Bureau office know so we can stay apprised of the situation. Give us a call at 217-442-8713.
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