Greenway extension dispute in Roanoke goes to federal board for resolution

The land deed for rail tracks on the Walker Foundry property dates to the 1800's

ROANOKE, VA – Last week, it looked as though a dispute between the City of Roanoke and the Walker Foundry Company might come to an end after more than three years.

Roanoke is trying to build an extension to the Greenway on property where there are currently unused railroad tracks.

On Friday, Norfolk Southern tried to abandon those tracks so the city could take over, but the foundry sent a letter, saying those tracks are not the railroad's to give.

The issue is currently being discussed by the federal Surface Transportation Board.

Walker Foundry says it is the one that owns the land, and was only letting Norfolk Southern use it through an easement.

Now, whether the land becomes a trail in the future depends on a land deed that dates back to 1891.

Just across the road from the Roanoke Greenway

Iron is being made every day at Walker Foundry.

WSLS met with President Glenn Muzzy Thursday to take a tour of the site.

"It's an active industrial, heavy industrial site. There's safety equipment required for our employees who are over here working," said Muzzy.

Bulldozers drove over the old railroad tracks, the same tracks that the city would like to see made into a trail extension.

In the filing with the Surface Transportation Board, Norfolk Southern lists the width of the right of way as "50 to 100 feet along the main track".

Muzzy says, that's not even close to accurate.

"It's literally feet from our operation. I'm standing where the Greenway would be, and there's a crane charging a furnace right here now," said Muzzy.

Muzzy says, he doesn't have anything against green space.

He just doesn't see a way for his foundry and a jogging trail to co-exist.

"It certainly is not our intention to slow or stop any progress of the Greenway, but again, we're an active foundry, we've been actively working on this site for 97 years," said Muzzy.

The history of Walker Foundry dates back to a document from 1891, where the interpretation of one sentence could determine the fate of the land.

It reads "the said Roanoke Development Company does grant with general warranty unto the said Norfolk and Western Railroad Company its successions or assigns, forever."​

"It's always been our understanding that we own the property that the rail is on, and that's why it was surprising that... Roanoke City was secretly planning to purchase the property from the railroad," said Muzzy.

But Norfolk Southern claims it owns the right of way, and should be able to give it to the city to develop.

Muzzy says, he's going to do what he can to keep that from happening.

"All I know is this is our property, and we intend to protect it, along with the jobs for our 70 employees and their families," said Muzzy.

WSLS did reach out to both the City of Roanoke and Norfolk Southern Railroad.

The city declined our request for a comment, and the railroad never got back.

The Surface Transportation Board has not set a date for making a decision on who this land actually belongs to.

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