Legal Memorandum: Planned Use of an Abutting Parcel of Land

Issue: Does an individual landowner have standing to sue a city over the planned use of an abutting parcel of land?

Area of Law: Municipal, County and Local Law, Real Estate Law
Keywords: Planned use of an abutting parcel of land; Landowner
Jurisdiction: Missouri, Nebraska
Cited Cases: 189 Neb. 598; 289 N.W.2d 519; 139 N.W.2d 349; 179 Neb. 569; 205 Neb. 656; 142 N.W.2d 157; 180 Neb. 262; 981 S.W.2d 644; 495 N.W.2d 275; 204 N.W.2d 157
Cited Statutes: Neb. Rev. Stat. § 17-558 (1999); Neb. Rev. Stat. § 17-948 (1999)
Date: 05/01/2000

In Boyles v. Missouri Friends of Wabash Trace Nature Trail, Inc., 981 S.W.2d 644, 647 (Mo. Ct. App. 1998),1 the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of a group of landowners, whose property abutted an abandoned railroad which was being turned into a recreational trail, holding that they were owners in fee simple absolute of the land and were entitled to possession of the section of the corridor which adjoined their lands.

On appeal, the Boyles court determined that when the railroad company originally took a right-of-way by condemnation over the land, it obtained only an easement, not the fee, and that when it abandoned railroad operations the original owners or their grantees held the property free from the easement.  981 S.W.2d at 649.  The defendant, however, argued that the easement was not abandoned because it planned to continue to use the railroad corridor for “transportation” as a hike- and-bike trail, which was consistent with the use for which the easement was initially taken.  Id.  The Boyles court disagreed, noting that the easement was granted for “railroad purposes” to which hiking and biking were clearly distinguishable.  Id. at 649-50.  The court, in emphasizing this distinction, sought out the dictionary definition of “railroad” and noted that “railroad purposes” do not encompass hiking, biking or other recreational uses.  Id. at 649. As stated by the court, “[t]he proposed development of a hiking, biking, cross-county skiing, and nature trail is completely unrelated to the operation of […]

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