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  1. #1
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    Parcel owners, looking for ideas

    Time to pick the collective brain...sorry up front for the novel, I don't know how to be succint on this stuff.

    We've got a trail system project we are working on with the assistance of an RTCA grant. Essentially we've got about 30 miles of trail on 700 acres. About 50% is owned/managed by cooperating parks or utilities, 25% by cooperative private owners, and the remainder is a assortment of small but critical parcels that are connectors.

    Here's our challenge: we can't seem to get a response of any sort from our critical parcel owners.( the last 25% is a whole bunch of tiny but important parcels) A good portion of these are held by developers as future infill ( 30+years maybe ahead). Even our partner largest landholder who is also a developer can't get a response from these guys. We thought it was just us, but now we are thinking that what we are doing is just not on their radar.

    So I am looking for ideas on how to get the owners of these locked up parcels to talk to us. Calls to the "big guy" are not being returned, and our formal letters get no reply. I've been in communication with a City Council member who supports our project and says he knows a bunch of these guys, but I am not getting anywhere with him yet, either. My next thought is to go through the some sort of PR/Community Liaison type part of the offices, if it exists.

    All we want is permission to legally use the trails that everyone is riding anyway, and to include them on a map we'd really like to put out. We want to opportunity to educate these folks about our states great recreation laws which afford a fairly high level of protection to owners that allow free access. A huge part of what we've done already is educate the users about the mix of land ownerships in this system, discourage illegal trail building, and emphasize appropriate uses.
    We aren't trying to lock up the land as open space for the future ( it's highly unlikely that much of it could be built on anyway)we just want the value of the trails and their use recognized.

    So what have all you folks done to contact landowners, with success? The funny thing is our projects has gotten a ton of PR/press, and we always emphasize that we are very respectful of the private property owners.

    thx.

  2. #2
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    Just replying to your inquiry may increase their liability risk, or their perceived liability risk, because there is now proof they were aware of the (mis)use of their land. Their replying to your request won't bring them any real positive benefits and and may have negative consequences, so they may never reply. If there is a long history of the use of the trails crossing their land, I would suggest including their land on your map with a notation that trail users are crossing private land with lots of warnings like stay on trail, etc. Once it is on the map, they may be forced to reply in a positive or negative fashion but until then their attorney may be advising them maintain plausable deniability.

  3. #3
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    You could always start throwing around the term eminent domain. Explain to the land holders that is not an option that you wish to persue but may be forced to if there is no response to your repeated communications. If the land is not developable this might be in their best interests if the municipalities would be willing to foot the bill to purchase the land.

    If you send them certified letters you can confirm they are receiving your correspondence and they would then not be able to disavow knowledge of the trails, this would force them to either be active with the planning to limit liability or be aware they can no longer claim ignorance should any liability concerns arise in the future.

    Don't forget most states have statutes that protect land owners from liabilty as long as access is free to the public and there is no neglegence in the construction or maintenance of the trails.
    CAMBr West
    Gives us a couple bucks and we'll give you some trails with sweet jumps and stuff.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Seanbike
    You could always start throwing around the term eminent domain. Explain to the land holders that is not an option that you wish to persue but may be forced to if there is no response to your repeated communications. If the land is not developable this might be in their best interests if the municipalities would be willing to foot the bill to purchase the land.

    If you send them certified letters you can confirm they are receiving your correspondence and they would then not be able to disavow knowledge of the trails, this would force them to either be active with the planning to limit liability or be aware they can no longer claim ignorance should any liability concerns arise in the future.

    Don't forget most states have statutes that protect land owners from liabilty as long as access is free to the public and there is no neglegence in the construction or maintenance of the trails.

    Washington state has some of the best recreations laws that protect landowners.

    Eminent domain is probably not a possibility as all parcels in question are inside the Growth Management Boundary and are zoned for potential infill. As in, even if we get our trail system we probably couldn't prevent development that may occur "someday".

  5. #5
    featherweight clydesdale
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    What benefit does the developer have to participate in your trail project at this point in time? Little to none. Maybe some positive PR, but nothing for the wallet which is what development is about.

    Around here, the municipality extracts a "proffer" (land, easement, or money) when a developer wants to rezone or seek approvals for whatever project they have in mind. A common proffer is a greenway dedication for part of the master trail plan, if the land is in the proposed greenway corridor. If the developer gives this to you now, could they also be forced to give something else (school site, extra wide side walks, fire station) in the future instead of the trail corridor. Maybe you can get city counsel involved to agree on some kind of future proffer or exception, if the developer agrees to do something for the public good at this point in time. That would get their attention!

  6. #6
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    If they are developers, you might be able to contact them through their attorneys. Another option might be to find a broker who might be able to get through to the land owners.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly
    What benefit does the developer have to participate in your trail project at this point in time? Little to none. Maybe some positive PR, but nothing for the wallet which is what development is about.
    We are thinking this is the deal. One of our supporting partners is a developer who is totally into trails and our project, knows everyone and even HE can't get a return phone call. My next tactic is to try and go through the PR departments of these co's and see if we can get anywhere.

    Strong arming developer is not our style, esp when we have positive support from some of them!!!

  8. #8
    Sheepherder/Cat Herder Moderator
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    Formica -

    In meetings with developers here in Boise, the idea of trails was sold as a way of making their developments (i.e. planned communities ) more recreation friendly. Trails were "sold" as ways for families to enjoy their neighborhoods and surroundings without having to go somewhere to do it. Trails were also sold as a way to connect planned development and provide for recreation and/or alternative transportaton corridors. Because trails have been presented to them in this manner, the developers saw trails as a lucrative selling point for their planned communities/developments.

    Hope this helps - Visi
    ...building wherever they'll let me...

  9. #9
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    Hey Al when you move up here you can help us out.

    That's the idea, when we can even get the guys to return our calls. The developer we have on board is all over trails as a community benefit, rather a new concept up here. Can you say old school good old boys? Pete cant' even get through ( literally) to these guys.

    I spent 20 minutes today trying to find a phone number for the development office PR/Community liasion/anything but an agent and I gave up, I'll try again tomorrow.

  10. #10
    Sheepherder/Cat Herder Moderator
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    I'll help ya for sure. I also plan on continuing my grant writing. Hopefully for you and the USFS Panhandle.

    As for the developers in question: If you can, hit them up at P&Z meetings that deal with their properties. You'll have them in front of a crowd you'll have dealt with before...and they are stuck (hopefully...if the meeting is being proctored correctly) listening to you. Have the MTB-friendly developer come with you when you approach the non-responsive developer.
    ...building wherever they'll let me...

  11. #11
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by Visicypher
    I'll help ya for sure. I also plan on continuing my grant writing. Hopefully for you and the USFS Panhandle.

    As for the developers in question: If you can, hit them up at P&Z meetings that deal with their properties. You'll have them in front of a crowd you'll have dealt with before...and they are stuck (hopefully...if the meeting is being proctored correctly) listening to you. Have the MTB-friendly developer come with you when you approach the non-responsive developer.
    If I understand Formica correctly, the developers in question here are simply holding this land. The housing development market is on ice and it could be 10 years before these guys think of getting in front of a P&Z meeting regarding these sites.

    When these guys finally do get in front of the planning commission, the crowd you refer to is basically a public *****ing session to them. The public is brow beating them, by reducing density and making improvements that don't go to the bottom line.

    Formica,

    I'm not suggesting brow beating the developer. Brow beat your city/town counsel instead. Get them to offer the developer a "carrot" that will benefit developer down the road. Come to the developer with something positive to the bottom line and you may get further.

  12. #12
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    Offering a free round of golf usually works for me.

    Seriously, I would contact them through an attorney. Maybe write them a letter and ask if they have an attorney who represents them who you could contact.

    UT

  13. #13
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    oh lawyers and golf there we go.

    The lawyer idea is a good one, we've got a couple on our side.

    just for grins, here's our system to be. All the (edit) light blue is our on-board ( thumbs up) parcel owners.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by formica; 08-08-2008 at 07:01 AM.

  14. #14
    featherweight clydesdale
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    Quote Originally Posted by formica
    oh lawyers and golf there we go.

    The lawyer idea is a good one, we've got a couple on our side.

    just for grins, here's our system to be. All the white is our on-board ( thumbs up) parcel owners.
    I think you mean light blue is thumbs up, purple needs permission. The golf suggestion might not be a bad idea.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly
    I think you mean light blue is thumbs up, purple needs permission. The golf suggestion might not be a bad idea.

    Doh, it looked white last night. I was thinking, "why isn't the color showing up".
    Last edited by formica; 08-08-2008 at 07:01 AM.

  16. #16
    saddlemeat
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    Try to find someone who knows the developer personally and can present (and advocate) the request. Usually works.

    Get P&Z (and city council) to make it a requirement for developers to include recreational trails in all development plans. This works the best actually, as the building permit process then handles the matter, but you have to be working with a city or zoning authority to do it.

    A Useful Bear is a handy thing.

  17. #17
    Almost Human
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    How long have the trails been there?

    There was a case in Boulder last year where a Judge and his wife had created a trail through a vacant lot next door to their house many years ago. They used the trail for about 14 years, then used a rarely exercised law to claim deed to the property. It's a dirty thing to do to someone else and I wouldn't recommend it. But if the trails have been there, say for 20 years, you may have a legal basis to at the very least request an easement.

    Another option would be to ask for a revokable 20 year license agreement. This would allow the property owner to develop the property when he desires.

    UT

  18. #18
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    What is in it for the Developer or Land Owner

    Al may have already filled you in on this but it all comes down to what does the developer or land owner get out of it. This is the critical point everyone needs to understand. You have to come up with a benefit to them.

    In the Boise Valley we have them contacting SWIMBA seeing the value in having a trail system for their home owners to use and to add value to the development. They also like to get SWIMBA on their side so they can convince the community their development is good for everyone.

    Unfortunately this becomes much harder in existing developments. If this is the case start asking around to see if a local rider knows one of the developers or land owners. You are always more willing to listen to a friend. Life is all about relationships and what is in it for me.

    Good luck,
    If you ain't hike you ain't Mnt Bikin

  19. #19
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    How about checking the tax status of the land? Here in PA there are some tax articles that reduce the tax payment for idle land set aside from development for 7 years or more. The payment is something like 10 percent of the full amount. Fun part is, the land is required to be "open for public recreation", whatever that means. Our speculation is you could never get cited for trespass . These guys of course stick up no trespassing signs.

    There is some land bordering a trail system I'm involved in that has this tax status. We'd love to get on the land but...

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