United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Aug. 3, 2018 released its decisions in the Hornish (homeowner’s) case against King County. The decisions on the whole are all in favor of the trail: they side with King County regarding title, the nature of railbanking, and the width of the rail and trail easement. This is a big win for King County and the trail! Per the Court:
The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of King County, Washington, quieting
title to a rail corridor that the Surface Transportation Board had “railbanked” pursuant to the Trails Act.
The panel held that the plaintiffs, landowners whose properties abutted the rail corridor’s boundaries, lacked both
Article III and statutory standing to bring their claim for a declaratory judgment pursuant to Wash. Rev. Code
§ 7.24.020 because they lacked any property interests in the corridor. The panel concluded that the County owned one
portion of the corridor in fee. In addition, the Trails Act preserved the railroad easement and created a new easement
for trail use, and both easements were conveyed to King County. The panel concluded that Washington’s “centerline
presumption” did not apply.
The panel held that the district court properly granted summary judgment to and quieted title in King County
because the county possessed the railroad easement and the recreational easement. The panel concluded that the
easement was 100 feet wide, with certain exceptions. The panel denied plaintiffs’ motion to supplement the record
with new evidence regarding the width of the corridor.
The document can be read here.
Our lawyer friends tell us it would be very difficult to appeal this any further. Let’s hope! At the same time, they also used this ruling to support King County with a similar legal issue with homeowners next to the Eastside Rail Corridor. The document can be read here.
We are now waiting to hear the results of the Shoreline Hearing Board for the last segment.