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An unusual eminent domain case

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2021 | Eminent Domain

Have you ever ridden the Skunk Train? Residents of Irvine and other nearby areas of California might want to learn more about a case in Northern California that has stirred the pot. With consideration that public utilities, such as railroads, have eminent domain rights, the Skunk Train situation in Mendocino County has the fighting name of a “land grab.” This popular tourist attraction train is trying to seize vacant land at the former Georgia-Pacific mill site near the city of Fort Bragg.

According to SFGATE, this land grab has been going on for 20 years as the railway has attempted to get the land. It comprises 270 acres of land that includes the mill site. It also includes 20% of the city of Fort Bragg. The Skunk Train has ownership by the Mendocino Railway.

Weeks ago, the mill ceded the land

Owners of the vacant Georgia-Pacific mill site knew that the mill site was rife with arsenic and harmful carcinogens. It was in discussions with Mendocino Railway over the years as way to escape liability over remediation of the land.

Railway says it will cede to development issues other than railroad

The president of Mendocino Railway stated that they would follow state and local laws in regard to development that is not for the railway. Fears, however, are that the railroad will build stores and restaurants, producing a “theme park” atmosphere for visitors.

The railway has federal recognition

The eminent domain process comes into play because the Skunk Train is only subject to federal regulation. It can circumvent local city and state regulations.

County fears Mendocino Railway will build regardless of environmental problems

Mendocino County feels that projects such as homes, hotels or restaurants will have a tie to the railway and the Skunk Train. In this manner, the railway will be able to disregard the local laws.

Issue divides residents

There is certainty that building and development will begin soon. It may be in the hands of the courts to decide this eminent domain issue.

Eminent domain claims may take unusual forms, including the one for a popular tourist attraction. The future will see what develops around the Mendocino Skunk Train in the Fort Bragg area.