Sonoma County residents are suing SMART over bicycle and pedestrian lanes

Dozens of Sonoma County residents are suing SMART over allegations that the railroad authority built illegal bicycle and pedestrian routes through their private properties without permission.

Nearly 50 plaintiffs in Sonoma County recently filed a federal lawsuit against SMART, a railroad agency, on charges that they “illegally built their bicycle and pedestrian lanes through their properties without their permission.” The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court in Northern California, alleged “the transit agency lacks the authority to build the railroad track through its properties.”

Legal gavel and books; Image courtesy of
Juice via Pixabay,

Commenting on the case, one of the attorneys, Tom Stewart, said, “SMART’s relief is only allowed for railroad use and not for one way.” When the company built the way, it illegally stole “property without compensation” from residents. from. Steward found that because of this, the company is violating residents’ rights after the fifth amendment. He added: “We are neither for nor against hiking or biking trails … We are for SMART to get it right.”

However, not everyone is against the plans for cycle and pedestrian paths. In fact, Warren Wells, director of politics and planning for the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, said his organizations “hope and believe that the lawsuit will be settled in SMART’s favor so that the vision promised to voters in Marin and Sonoma Counties in 2008 can be realized a continuous pedestrian and cycle path parallel to the railway line from Larkspur to Cloverdale. “

However, Stewart pushed back, saying SMART had a chance to find a way through “a process set out in the National Trails System Act of 1983 but chose not to follow it”. According to the law, unused railway corridors can be designated as “Railbanked”, whereby “the railway corridor is preserved if it is needed in the future, but allows temporary uses such as hiking trails when it is not used”. The state is currently planning “to pave part of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in parts of the north coast for the planned Great Redwood Trail, which will lead from Novato to Eureka”.

According to the lawsuit, SMART’s “existing reliefs on Sonoma properties do not allow both a rail and a path … To comply with the law, SMART must choose between a path or an operating rail line, but cannot have both. ”

Lyons noted that there may be a way that the National Trails System Act “may apply to their path, even though SMART’s Empowering Act, passed by Legislature in 2002 through Act 2224, says that“ SMART should provide railroad work and facilities that include an additional bike path. “Lyons said,” It is not precisely our position that this be a walking and hiking trail, but rather a railway purpose. “

It is important to note that the federal government could also investigate the lawsuit. Stewart said:

“If a judge ruled against SMART and the railroad decided to obey national hiking trails, any damage would be limited to a temporary claim based on how long the trail was on the property … In which case the lawsuit would then be for violations convert against the fifth amendment into a lawsuit against the federal government. “

Stewart added:

“If SMART does not comply with the National Trails System Act, there may be damage in the permanent takeover of private property that would be equivalent to the value of the property. There is no specific dollar number there. We don’t know whether it will be temporary or permanent. “


Federal lawsuit aims to expand SMART cycle paths

AB-2224 Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District.

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