“Other landowners have used and occupied the former B&O rail bed for more than the statutory period of 20 years and therefore under Maryland law they, not DNR, own the land.”
Daly wrote that even DNR apparently had doubts about whether the railroad owned the right of way when DNR purchased it.
Other commissioners agreed during their meeting that land ownership was a major concern.
Wilson said Tuesday afternoon that DNR’s position all along has been that it owns the land it bought.
Anyone who contested the ownership could submit documentation and DNR would review it, he said.
“I would have thought if someone had a legitimate claim, it would have come up by now,” Wilson said.
Well over 200 people filled a sweltering upstairs meeting room in Boonsboro’s fire hall last month to comment on the project, with proponents and opponents taking turns.
Supporters said the trail would be another outlet for healthy exercise and could infuse the local economy with money from visitors.
But critics had a long list of reasons against the rail trail, such as the high price tag and the possible crime and noise it could bring. Some raised questions about land ownership and property rights, which were among the reasons Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, cited in a letter opposing the project.
During that meeting, Kroboth told the crowd that another public meeting would be held in a month or two.
Asked Monday if a meeting was scheduled, Kroboth said he was waiting to hear if the commissioners felt another meeting was necessary.
On Tuesday, Kroboth asked the commissioners about accepting DOT funding for a feasibility study. He said the DOT called him with the offer July 1 and he needed to respond by Wednesday.
With one day to make a decision, the commissioners backed away.
In an email, Erin Henson of Maryland DOT’s Office of Public Affairs wrote that Washington County was one of several applicants for DOT’s 2013 Bikeways Program Grants, which require matching money by the local jurisdiction.
Washington County asked for money to design the project, but because the county wasn’t ready for design, DOT suggested money for a feasibility study instead, Henson wrote.
Washington County staff pledged to respond to DOT by Wednesday; DOT didn’t set that deadline, Henson wrote.
Staff Writer C.J. Lovelace contributed to this story.