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LEGAL ACTION: Homeowners hoping to cash out on Bonita Estero Rail Trail

Posted at 7:48 AM, May 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-07 07:48:14-04

ESTERO, Fla. — The old Seminole Gulf Railway train tracks are set to turn into the Bonita Estero Rail Trail. It's 14.9 miles of recreational space for cyclists, joggers, and walkers of all kinds.

It cuts through The Vines, a gated community in Estero. It's also nestled through homeowner's backyards in San Carlos Park.

Diana Ackerman lives in The Vines and does not want to see the trail happen. She suggests it could avoid areas where it impacts homes and potentially, property value.

"There's an adjacent neighborhood, San Carlos where public un-gated homes have their back yards up against the railroads, this is so unfair to those folks," Bruce Ackerman, another Vines resident, said.

The path winds from Wiggins Pass Road in Naples to Alico road in Fort Myers.

Lewis Rice is the law firm representing homeowners near the Rail Trail. Lindsay Brinton is an attorney with the firm.

Eminent domain allows the federal government to turn private land into public use and Brinton says this Rail Trail project is entirely constitutional.

"Unfortunately for landowners, there's nothing that they can really do to stop it, at least in the court system," she said.

Still, Brinton says many homeowners adjacent to The Vines are also asking for the firm to step in. If they can't block the path, they may be able to get a financial settlement from the federal government in exchange for less privacy.

"The only opportunity they will have is to be paid for the taking of the property, just like any type of eminent domain," Brinton said.