Downtown property owners asked to resolve encroachments on railroad property

by beth on August 12, 2020

Post image for Downtown property owners asked to resolve encroachments on railroad property

Above: Owners of four commercial properties are asked to work out encroachment issues with the railroad. The biggest impact could be to the parking lot for Mauro’s Village Café. (image from Town GIS property map.)

The owners of four parcels at the downtown railroad tracks are being informed that they are encroaching on land owned by the freight train company. The news could cause parking problems for businesses, especially a downtown restaurant.

Last week the Board of Selectmen approved a letter to be issued to the property owners. Selectmen are urging the owners to reach out to CSX Transportation to work out a solution. If they don’t, there could repercussions from both CSX and the Town.

At the August 4th BOS Meeting, selectmen explained that the issue came up due to plans to install curbed sidewalks on downtown Main Street.* The Town reached out to CSX for the necessary easements. (They need temporary construction easements, plus some permanent easements for sidewalks.) CSX responded by informing the Town about the encroachments of private property owners downtown. CSX said it they won’t grant the Town easements unless/until issues are resolved with those encroachments.

According to selectmen, CSX’s right of way extends 30 feet in each direction from the center of the tracks. Selectman Brian Shea said he asked DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan to research the property deeds. The Town didn’t find anything that allowed use of CSX’s right of way.

The four properties warned of encroachments are:

  • 2 Main Street – site of Mauro’s Village Café
  • 1 Main Street – site of Knights of Columbus and Saxony Barbershop
  • 1 Boston Road – site of the Lamy Insurance Building and recently closed English Garden Florist shop 
  • 2 East Main Street – a vacant lot where Peter Bemis has been trying to develop an office building (That project is currently under appeal.)

Selectmen Lisa Braccio and Shea noted the biggest impact would be for the eatery, Mauro’s. Shea followed:

theoretically CSX could show up tomorrow with jersey barriers and put them at their right of way and that takes away a dozen spaces from them.

The Town’s property map indicates that parking lots for the three developed properties all extend beyond their boundaries. The undeveloped lot’s “encroachments” could refer to dirt piles and equipment. Below are images of the intersection.** (Click to enlarge.)

Properties around CSX crossing at downtown Main Street (cropped from GIS Map on Town website) downtown CSX crossing (from Google Maps) downtown CSX crossing (from Google Maps) downtown CSX crossing (from Google Maps) downtown CSX crossing (from Google Maps) 2 E Main Street (photo by Cassie Melo) 2 E Main Street (photo by Cassie Melo)

Braccio asked Shea to confirm that CSX has every desire to work with business owners to come up with something equitable. Shea couldn’t assure that. Chair Marty Healey later stated CSX’s correspondence “didn’t indicate anything contrary to a sense of cooperation”. He urged getting everyone to the table to “resolve this amicably”.

A letter drafted by Shea and unanimously approved by the Board states that non-compliance could lead to another potential penalty. The Town may be unable to provide parking lot access to Main Street when future sidewalks are installed:

As things stand now, if required to move forward without a reasonable solution, the Town may not be able to provide a curb cut off Main Street to your property, given the narrow frontage between structures on your property and the existing 30-foot ROW line. This is not the preferred alternative that the Board would like to see happen, and the Board is unanimous in its position to see that a solution can be implemented so as not to adversely impact your business. 

Town Administrator Mark Purple stressed in last week’s meeting:

the Town is not trying to insert itself into any discussions between the individual property owners and CSX. We’re simply trying to encourage that those discussions happen so that CSX doesn’t . . . delineate their property to the extent that they can, which would be detrimental to the property owners.

The letter pushes owners to contact CSX but also offers to have a selectman meet with them to discuss issues. You can read the draft letter here.

*The letter describes the plans to extending work from the Main Street Reconstruction project:

the Town project will continue the roadway, curbing, and sidewalk improvements from Park Street easterly to East Main Street, ending just past the intersection with Winchester Street. The project will also extend southerly a short distance on Boston Road.

**Images of downtown were taken L-R from the Town’s GIS map, Google Maps, and pics by Cassie Melo.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 every desire? August 13, 2020 at 10:27 AM

From the information presented in the story, it sounds as though CSX has a legal right to the land 30 feet either side from its tracks. It also sounds as though certain Southborough business owners have encroached on that land.

Why would Ms. Braccio believe that CSX needs to compromise considering the facts as presented? The article suggests the businesses have built their parking lots into and onto CSX property. Further, how would Brian Shea be able to provide comment on CSX’s intent? Does Mr. Shea represent CSX for this issue?

And, finally, if CSX perseveres what is the worst possible outcome for this tempest in a teacup? A few businesses bordering the railroad will not have pretty curb cutouts? No curbs? How will that be worse than what is there today?

Are there not other, more pressing matters to occupy the Southborough BOS? covid-19? Senior Center? Schools? Traffic? etc.?

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2 beth August 13, 2020 at 12:44 PM

The new sidewalks won’t be like the ones that currently exist in that area. They will have concrete curbs like the ones being built further up the street. No curb cuts means no access from the road to the parking lot.

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3 Carol August 13, 2020 at 1:13 PM

Was this encroachment ever brought up while the Main Street project was being. studied and completed ? Has. CSX. ever notified any abutters or town officials of this situation in years past ? Does Squatters rights apply here ?

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