Land owner says CSX won’t settle up for road

by Kate Shunney

A property owner in the Magnolia area says it’s been nearly a year since railroad company CSX bulldozed a road across his property without his permission, and the company has yet to settle up for damage to his land.

Dan Stiles of Falling Waters, who is a regular columnist with this newspaper, discovered the road last summer when he visited his Morgan County property.

The road is at the end of Baird Lane, and connects to Low Line Road, which runs parallel to the Potomac River. There had been a rough access lane there, but Stiles arrived at his property to find a newly-bulldozed dirt and shale road. Dozens of mature hardwood and pine trees were pushed over during road construction, and remain on the sides and down a deep gully.

Stiles said the road work began in the week of July 10, 2017. He has had some contact with CSX about the property damage, and issues related to a large metal gate that the railroad company installed at the top of his property to block traffic.

A CSX gate stands at the top of a railroad access road in the Magnolia area. The road crosses private property and was built without the owner’s permission.

In recent weeks, Stiles said CSX workers were unable to get through the locked gates due to the lack of keys. He allowed them to cross his property to go around the gates.

CSX spokeswoman Laura Phelps said on June 22 that the company is aware of the issues and taking action.

“We remain in contact with the property owner and are working to resolve this issue,” she said via email.

Stiles said he hasn’t heard from the company’s real estate division for more than two months.

Prior to that, CSX did admit they had made an error in cutting the quarter-mile road through private property. Stiles said he proposed a land swap of railroad property adjacent to his land to compensate him for the loss of his property, but the company rejected the idea.

Stiles said he understands the company’s need for an easy access to Low Line Road and the Stuart Tunnel near his property. Construction of the road has caused erosion problems and toppled a significant number of trees – two problems that particularly bother the retired wildlife biologist.

“Bulldozing a road through my property without my permission was a terrible CSX mistake,” Stiles said. “A good neighbor has attempted to install drainage ditches that help some, but don’t you think someone from CSX ought to be doing this work?”