Fee-vs-Easements-PS1998 - Professional Surveyor...

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Professional Surveyor – January/February 1998 Railroads—Easement or Fee Simple? Wendy Lathrop, LS We are frequently confronted with a parcel of land bounded by a railroad, and spend significant time deciphering deeds to determine whether the railroad is in fact an easement or a separately titled tract. At the turn of the century, when rails ruled the country, it was common to find deeds granting rights over vast tracts of land without clear location or clearly worded rights of interest. A recent Maryland case brought against the United States by an 1890 land trust and an area country club established in 1909 highlights some of the problems well known to surveyors. Because it is a long and involved case, only certain points will be discussed here. For further reference, the full story may be read as Chevy Chase Land Co. of Montgomery v. US , at 37 Fed. Cl. 545 (1997). Fee Simple? Or Reversionary Easement? The gist of the story is that the land trust owned property over which it deeded a strip of land to a railroad. The land on both sides of the railroad strip was sold to a country club, which built a golf course with several crossings over the railroad strip. At issue was whether the railroad strip was deeded in full fee simple absolute to the railroad, or whether it was merely a reversionary easement that would return to the land trust upon the abandonment of the railroad's use of the strip. Why is this so important? For one thing, if the conveyance had only been for a reversionary easement, the land trust would be able to re-sell the strip to either the adjoining country club or to the county for a Rails- to-Trails project, either way amassing a profit. (The Rails to Trails Act provides that former railroad rights-of-way are to be maintained for the public benefit, reserving the right to build light-rail transitways and public walk- and bike-ways in the right-of-way.) On the other hand, the country club wanted to be able to claim adverse rights over the strip, but it never made clear whether its claim was against the land trust or the railroad. Now we meet the cast of characters. Chevy Chase Land Company (CCLC, or "the land
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This note was uploaded on 07/08/2011 for the course SUR 4403 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at University of Florida.

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Fee-vs-Easements-PS1998 - Professional Surveyor...

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