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Upton Citizens File Petition Concerning Railroad

A group of Upton residents have filed a petition with the Surface Transportation Board seeking a Declaratory Order that will affirm whether or not the Grafton Upton Railroad's activities are pre-empted from local regulations. The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that regulates railroads.

Ever since railroad owner Jon Delli Priscoli reactivated the railroad several years ago, a group of residents in Upton have continued to question whether or not town and state officials have any jurisdiction over the railroad's operations, in particular, a transloading and wood pellet business on site. Town Counsel and members of the Federal Railroad Association continue to state the railroad and its activities are under federal authority.

According to Town Manager Blythe Robinson, the group of seven citizens, who include Ray Smith, Joseph Hatch, Cheryl Hatch, Diana DelGrosso, Kathleen Kelley, Andrew Wiklund, and Richard Kosiba, filed the 35 page petition through Concord Attorney Mark Bobrowski, which is dated July 23.

A $1,400 filing fee has been submitted to the STB. The fee was paid for by the petitioners who are asking that the funding be reimbursed or reduced feeling this was a matter that the town should have moved forward on.

In the past, a number of officials have been contacted or brought in to comment on the railroad's pre-emptive status. "Town Counsel, Counsel for the Railroad, and representatives from the Federal Railroad Association have all agreed that the pre-emption is in place," said Doug Pizzi, a spokesperson for the Grafton Upton Railroad.

Last year, at the urging of a number of residents, the Planning Board voted in favor to seek out legal counsel and bring the matter before the STB. Nevertheless, the Board of Selectmen, which controls access to legal counsel among town committees and boards, decided to take no action with regard to contacting the STB.

Pizzi says most residents in Upton and the other communities the railroad runs through see it as an "economic engine," creating jobs, but it's just a small group of citizens that have issues with the railroad.

"It's a NIMBY situation; as in 'not in my back yard'," he said. Pizzi believes the residents are upset because they bought homes near the railroad believing it would not be an active operation again. "They're not happy. They don't want it."

Robinson stated that it is likely the petition will be brought up for discussion at the next Board of Selectmen's meeting on August 7, but that "it's really a matter between the petitioners and the railroad."

When petitioner Kathleen Kelley was contacted, she stated she was not able to provide any comments concerning the petition at this time. Calls to Attorney Mark Bobrowski were not returned.


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