A St. Louis-based law firm is sending representatives to Hamilton County for a series of meetings on the Nickel Plate Railroad, and the possible eminent domain of land owners’ property.

The law firm of Arent Fox LLP is sending an attorney to Hamilton County Monday and Tuesday to discuss compensation for property expected to be taken to convert part of the Nickel Plate Railroad to a walking/biking trail.

The cities of Noblesville and Fishers want to convert more than 9 miles of the railroad to a walking trail. The cities, and Hamilton County, are the owners of the railroad.

In order to build the trail, the owners would have to acquire property abutting the rail line.

Attorney Lindsay Brinton will conduct three town hall meetings to discuss the case, which involves the federal government taking land to convert the rail line into a public recreational trail. This abandoned railroad segment is roughly 37.56 miles long.

Eminent domain, the taking of private property for public use, has not been discussed, however Arent Fox is prepared to file a claim in The Court of Federal Claims, Washington D.C., to make sure property owners along the rail line are compensated.

Arent Fox is waiting until the United State Surface Transportation Board rules on the Nickel Plate owners’ petition to keep the rail corridor intact for use as a walking/biking trail, or a railroad.

The petition asks the STB to permit the owners to move forward with plans to rail bank the line.

Rail banking is a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service rail corridor as a trail until a railroad might need the corridor again for rail service.

The owners have filed for the entire line – Tipton to Indianapolis. If successful in rail banking, the owners have preserved the opportunity for each community along the line to convert from rail to trail. Communities that convert will be responsible, legally and financially, for maintaining that portion of trail within its jurisdiction.

The process could take as long as a year to receive federal approval.

Noblesville and Fishers announced plans to convert the southern portion of the Nickel Plate to a trail in March.

The plan calls for a 9 mile trail from Pleasant Street in Noblesville to 96th Street in Fishers.

Earlier this year, Ms. Brinton and her colleagues recovered nearly $1 million for landowners in Martin and Lawrence County.

Arent Fox represents over 1,000 landowners in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Oregon, South Carolina, New York, Missouri, and Tennessee who are pursuing Fifth Amendment takings claims against the federal government.

The firm has offices in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, DC.