Property owners press for easements across snowmobile trail

1937 railroad deed sheds light on Webb’s rights and responsibilities, says attorney

Three owners of adjacent Properties on Route 28 between Old Forge and Eagle Bay are continuing their quest to be granted a Town of Webb easement across Snowmobile Trail 5 to legally access their properties from the road.

The three—Donald Gooley, David Gribneau and John Johnson—are being represented by attorney Mark Levitt, who made a presentation to the town board on their behalf at the board’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 13. Levitt said that in the past there had been some confusion as to the ownership of the land occupied by Trail 5 along Route 28.

Levitt said the Raquette Lake Railroad had acquired the land from respective land owners more than a century ago.

Then, in 1937, the railroad deeded the land to the Town of Webb.

This transfer was clearly a transference of ownership, without question, according to Levitt.

“Years ago, at the end of the 19th century and through part of the 20th century, the scriveners would refer to areas of land used by railroads as a ‘Railroad Right of Way,’ when in fact the RR actually owned it,” Levitt said.

“[Railroad Right of Way] was a term of art that was very confusing. But if you look at the actual deed it talks about all of the easements and interests and rights to the land that the railroad had,” he said.

Consequently, since the railroad owned the land, the town became the owner once the rights were deeded. And the purpose was to allow public highway use, Levitt said.

According to Levitt, his clients’ properties satisfy development requirements, and they would like to situate residences on them.

And the state Department of Transportation is on board withthat plan, he said.

“[They] are on an absolutely straight, wide open stretch of Route 28,” Levitt said.

But permission is needed to cross this land, which Levitt says is owned by the Town of Webb.

“The snowmobile trail is important to commerce up here,” he said. “It is a vital part of the community. But it can’t be allowed to interfere with somebody’s property rights and [their ability] to use their property.”

Further, snowmobile trails have been shown to co-exist with road vehicles, said Levitt, who cited North Street and the South Shore Road in Old Forge, and Rondaxe and Big Moose roads.

“You can easily make this work simply by putting signage up for the three properties. All we are asking for are 20-foot easements across the snowmobile trail—one for each lot,” he said.

The Gooley/Gribneau driveways would be adjacent at their common boundary, and the Johnson drive would be 300 feet beyond, Levitt said. Levitt said that he and town attorney  Richard Frye have pored over the deeds and that he walked the stretch in September with Frey and Supevisor Ted Riehle.

Now what’s required is a granting of easements by the town.

Levitt said these easements would be finite and not open the door to uncontrolled bisecting of Trail 5.

Most of the land is non-developable, he said.

The town made no decision on the request at its Tuesday’s meeting.

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