The Landowners & The Railroad
WEISNER: Railroad makes a claim it cannot back up.
Jay Weisner doesn’t take kindly to warnings or threats. For that reason, he has assembled a 23-page booklet to stand in opposition to a railroad.
“They say, they own my property,” he said.
Weisner filed his concerns last Tuesday night with the Laurens County Council, and left the members with a recommendation. He said Carolina Piedmont Road is claiming a 200-foot “corridor” through Laurens County - something that, on the same line, they do not claim in Greenville County. The claim treads on the property rights of every homeowner along the Laurens County “corridor,” he said.
Carolina Piedmont Railroad was deeded this line by CSX, Weisner said, and somewhere in the deeding, the 200-foot claim was made. Instead of doing their own research, surveyors since then have merely copied the CSX deed, Weisner claimed. CSX used a quit-claim deed, but it deeded something it never owned, he said.
He, and others in the area, own property claimed by the railroad based on deeds going back as far as 1913, he said. Piedmont Carolina Railroad wrote Weisner a letter:
“While CPDR does not owe an explanation with respect to its operations or use of its property, CPDR will provide one as a courtesy. Railroads are regulated by federal rules, which include requirements related to signage at public and private crossings, such as the one posted at the above-referenced location ... These signs are required by federal rules. Further safe operation of railroads necessitates an evaluation of crossings along active rail lines, including putting the proper crossing protections at public and private railroad crossings. (in bold) Any activity on your part to trespass on CPDR property, or to vandalize its chattel, will be met with federal, state, and local legal repercussions. (end bold) ... Please note that CPDR reserves all of its legal rights against you if you enter or vandalize its property.”
Weisner said, “They are bullying me.”
The railroad put 10 signs on his property saying, “RR CROSSING, NO TRESPASSING right to pass by permission subject to control of owner, Carolina Piedmont Railroad.”
Weisner said, “It is not their property.”
The Barksdale-area landowner said he brought the matter personally to the county council because he said the members were told something in error by legal counsel. “You were told that I was wrong,” Weisner said. “I am not wrong.”
It is an important matter, Weisner said, because he and others who are having their land seized are Laurens County taxpayers. “Carolina Piedmont does not pay taxes,” he said. “I understand deeds and plats, I taught the course. Carolina Piedmont Railroad doesn’t own any property. These 10 signs are plain harassment.”
Federal law does not require the railroad to post signs like these, Weisner said. “The signs posted depend on how busy the crossing is,” he said.
There is another issue of concern to Weisner. If the railroad ever abandoned the line, it would become subject to a rails-to-trails conversion. Since a Laurens to Greenville link is envisioned as part of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, the “corridor” if abandoned could link the two cities. Weisner said he objects to that happening on his property.
He said, “They can’t put it on my property. They can’t put it on anybody’s property.”
Even though the railroad claims 100 ft from the center line on either side, most deeds allow just 20 ft, and in some places it’s 9 ft. And, Weisner said, that is only for service access, not a rail “corridor”.
“I’ve lived by this railroad for 75 years,” Weisner said. “One day I woke up and I found storage buildings in my front lawn; that’s as bad as a liquor store - worse even.”
Laurens County has no zoning.
Weisner made a recommendation based on a council member’s request. He wants the matter thoroughly researched and the railroad held compliant with older plats - he asks that the county question any deed that refers to a rail “corridor” through Laurens County. The council accepted the matter as information.