Railroad offers no-cost leases to residents on North 23rd Street in Murphysboro

CARBONDALE — After the city of Murphysboro filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad Company for ownership of North 23rd Street, the railroad offered the city and families near the street another option.

Union Pacific Spokesperson Kristen South said the railroad offered Amanda and Kyle Tuttle — a family who found that 10 to 15 feet of their front yard was considered Union Pacific property — a no-cost lease to the property.

South said the lease would give the Tuttles access to the property at no cost and allow the railroad to maintain ownership of the road. Previously, the Tuttles told the Murphysboro City Council that the railroad threatened to charge the family $83 a month to access their home.

South said the lease allows the railroad potential growth opportunities in the future, in which it would provide sufficient notice to the leaseholders.

Amanda Tuttle told The Southern Illinoisan that the railroad did offer them a free lease, but it was declined by the family. She said the provisions on the lease were not satisfactory, adding that the railroad could terminate the lease at any time within 30 days if it wanted to use the property.

The Tuttles found out about the situation when they went to purchase another mortgage. Amanda Tuttle said she talked to Union Pacific about the no-cost lease rolling over to another homeowner if they were to sell the house, and the response was that it would have to be approved by the railroad.

“I couldn’t take a chance on that,” she said. “Their word means nothing to me. Everybody knows about this situation already, so it is going to be hard enough to sell our home.”

Mayor Will Stephens while he appreciates the concession from the railroad on the no-cost lease, it still means the owners of those properties still can’t sell their homes. He said the city is open to settling this issue outside of a courtroom, but that will include the railroad giving the city a permanent easement or deed the property to the city.

“I don’t see any other solution than that,” Stephens said.

Union Pacific also told The Southern it would be willing to discuss a potential sale of the property to the city.

“We want to settle this outside of court, amicably, with a solution to everybody,” South said.

Stephens said the city wouldn’t be interested in buying the property because it’s been treated as a city street for several years.

“Why should the city have to buy their own property?” Stephens said. “That doesn’t make any sense either. That’s a city street. It has been maintained by taxpayers’ dollars for decades.”

In the lawsuit filed by Ed Heller of Reed, Heller, Mansfield and Gross, acting in his capacity as Murphysboro City Attorney, says for more than 15 years, 23rd Street has been in use by the public as a public street. Additionally, the street was solely maintained by the city using motor fuel tax funds.

Stephens said Monday there has been little communication between the city and the railroad. He said the railroad’s attorney did reach out to the city attorney, but nothing toward a solution was discussed.

The lawsuit pending in Jackson County Court is scheduled for a judge review on Oct. 29.

Article by Dustin Duncan for the southern.com

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November 2023