New lawsuit filed against Jackson County over hiking and biking trail

Federal agency also considering complaint
Posted: 4:54 PM, Apr 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-18 18:41:30-04
Rock Island Rail Corridor.jpg

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. — Three more landowners have filed a new lawsuit against Jackson County over a hiking and biking trail.

They join six other landowners who also have a pending suit against the county, claiming property obtained for the Rock Island Rail Corridor Recreational Trail should either be returned to them or they should be paid for it.

The landowners, through their attorneys, also filed a new argument Thursday in their complaint with the federal Surface Transportation Board.

In that argument, the landowners claim by Jackson County's own admission that there was never any intention to keep the rail line open along the trail.

As the 41 Action News Investigators reported in February, the county obtained the property through an exemption by stating a rail line would remain open.

Instead, the landowners have given the Surface Transportation Board pictures showing the county removed rails and ties and built the hiking and biking trail on the rail bed.

As a result, the landowners claim the county fraudulently obtained the exemption to get the property for the trail, which when completed is supposed to run nearly 18 miles from the Truman Sports Complex to Lee's Summit.

Jackson County taxpayers have a huge stake in the ongoing disputes.

The county issued $50 million in bonds to buy the property and would ultimately have to pay roughly $80 million over the life of the debt service.

An attempt in March to settle the issue through mediation with the original six landowners who filed suit was unsuccessful.

The county responded to the new lawsuit and argument from landowners in an emailed statement on Thursday afternoon:

On March 29, 2019 Jackson County filed a Supplemental Response to the STB regarding the petitioners Petition for Revocation. The County stands by the facts stated in this document, which is attached. Throughout this process, the County has been transparent about its intentions to pursue trail, transit and economic development projects centered on the Rock Island Rail Corridor. Since acquiring this Corridor, the County has taken the necessary steps to maintain compliance with its Common Carrier Obligations. The County is confident that the STB will reach the same conclusion as before, allowing the County to continue progress on what will be a premiere recreational attraction that connects area communities.