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A line of boxcars stretches from Shade Avenue to the Publix supermarket at Ringling Boulevard and Lime Avenue. File photo.
Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 11 years ago

Trains stalled in neighborhood

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Two Sarasota communities have been trying unsuccessfully for months to rid themselves of some nuisance neighbors, and despite assurances, it doesn’t appear those neighbors will clear out anytime soon.

In March, about two-dozen graffiti-covered railroad boxcars rolled to a stop on the tracks between the Alta Vista and Gardens of Ringling Park neighborhoods.

The train sat just 20 feet from Shade Avenue between South Pelican Drive and Novus Street.

Neighbors began complaining to the city that because some of the boxcars had doors that were open or missing, they were a temptation not only for kids, but also for transients.

Some of the open cars revealed pillows, blankets, clothing, food wrappers and beverage containers.

City officials contacted the Seminole Gulf Railway to see when the cars may be moving.

Harry Neeves, a railway vice president, assured them that the tracks between the two neighborhoods were only being used as a temporary storage area.

He wrote March 30 to the city’s neighborhood and development director, Tim Litchet, to tell him that the train would be moving in a couple of weeks.

More than four months later, the boxcars have not moved.

Alta Vista resident and former City Commission candidate Pete Theisen has been exchanging emails with Neeves, whom Theisen calls “that nasty man from the railroad.”

“He keeps saying (Seminole Gulf) will move them,” said Theisen.

It’s frustrated City Hall as well.

“Seminole Gulf Railway is not what one would call ‘a good corporate citizen,’” said City Commissioner  Shannon Snyder.

Neeves did not return a call seeking comment.

However, the city has no recourse other than to ask the rail company to move the cars.

Federal law gives the railroads autonomy from state and local laws.

Neeves said private security monitors the boxcars to make sure no illegal activity is happening in them.
But that hasn’t done much to reassure neighbors.

“There are two dangers,” said Theisen. “One is to kids, and the other is to women and seniors from the derelicts making their home in (the boxcars).”

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