TOWN OF RICHMOND — Nine months and thousands of dollars in legal fees into the new railroad autoport project and the Town of Richmond has yet to see a signed agreement from the Canadian National Railway Company.
A flurry of activity between Thanksgiving and Christmas ground to a halt under a blanket of snow, as have negotiations between the town and CN.
As it stands, two agreements remain outstanding: a developers agreement which spells out a list of mediation measures the surrounding communities had hoped the railroad would implement; and a road relocation agreement which addressing the relocation of 105th Street integral to the safety and efficiency of the autoport operation.
After a phone call with officials from CN on Feb. 17, Town of Richmond Chairman Gary Knutson said he still believes the railroad intends to work with the community and the city of New Richmond, and adopt a number of the measures asked for.
“We did make some concessions, such as taxes and noise level. We still want a 20 foot berm in certain areas, trees, light pole height reduction and some type of shared maintenance agreement for their portion of the road. We’re still negotiating. We’re getting closer. Everybody’s on the same page, they want to get this thing settled, but we’re still in the negotiation process. Hopefully within the next week or two we’ll get this thing settled,” Knutson said.
Minus any written agreement, the railroad has constructed berms ranging in height from 10 to 20 feet tall surrounding the autoport footprint in spots to shield neighboring properties from noise and light pollution. In areas where the town would like to see higher berms, the railroad has counter offered to add more trees.
“We can live with the berm issues after they told us what they were going to do, but it would be nice to get it in writing,” Knutson said.
The more immediate concern for both parties is the road relocation agreement, which the town is standing firm on asking the railroad to help pay for maintenance.
“The town builds roads suitable for automobiles and doesn’t have excess money, so we’re asking them to share in some of the costs," Knutson said.
The railroad has told the town it does not typically sign written agreements of any kind. The railroad did respond to the original developer’s agreement by returning an unsigned and, in Knutson words, “stripped down,” version of the original agreement.
Following the phone conversation on Feb. 17, it was left with CN that the town would again present in writing what measures it wanted and that CN would “address them the best way we can.”
“Hopefully it will get resolved in the next couple weeks,” said Knutson.
Meanwhile the waiting game continues.