Allegheny Valley Railroad files federal lawsuit to claim tract in Verona
An Oakmont railroad company wants a federal judge to declare that it has dibs on 7.5 acres in Verona that the borough wants, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
Allegheny Valley Railroad condemned the property owned by James Burrows Co. on June 21. It wants to build a classification and switching yard that would allow the loading and unloading of railroad cars.
Verona Council voted June 23 to condemn the property for a park, green space or other municipal uses. The borough filed its condemnation June 29.
“Given the timing of the filing of the borough’s taking, the true purpose for the borough’s taking was to obstruct AVR’s title to the property and thus interfere with AVR’s use of the property for railroad purposes,” Allegheny Valley Railroad says in the lawsuit.
A company representative referred all questions to the railroad’s attorney, who couldn’t be reached for comment. The borough’s solicitor, Craig Alexander, declined to comment.
The railroad’s condemnation power comes from federal law, and the borough’s power comes from state law, the lawsuit says. Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that federal condemnation takes precedence over state or local condemnations, the lawsuit says.
The property is between the railroad’s right of way and Allegheny River Boulevard as it approaches Plum Creek.
George W. Burrows, the owner of James Burrows Co., filed objections to the railroad’s condemnation July 20. He contends that the railroad’s authority is limited by its actual need for the property. Because Allegheny Valley Railroad operates less than 80 miles of line and already has a railyard in Hazelwood, he argues it doesn’t need another.
The railroad has recently invested about $6 million, including $1.6 million of state money, in upgrading the Hazelwood yard, Burrows says in his objection.
His attorney couldn’t be reached for comment.
Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or 412-325-4301.