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Understanding Right-of-way

Discussion in 'Easements & Right of Way Law' started by SeekingUnderstanding, Nov 13, 2016.

  1. SeekingUnderstanding

    SeekingUnderstanding Law Topic Starter New Member

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    We live on a private lane with right-of-way for ingress/egress to properties further up the lane. The agreement states, “The right-of-way, easement, rights & privileges herein granted shall be used only for the purpose of ingress, egress, and regress for persons, animals, motor vehicles, equipment, materials & supplies”. “The creation of the aforementioned easement & right-of-way shall not be deemed to constituted an agreement to improve, alter, repair and maintain said right-of way nor constitute a charge or lien for costs thereof against any of the lands described aforesaid. All costs of improving, altering, repairing or maintaining the easement of right-of-way shall be borne by those persons who shall make such improvements, alterations, repairs or maintenance without the right of reimbursement from any other owner, tenant, mortgagee, or other party of interest”. “No barriers, fences, curbs or obstructions to the free and unhampered use of said easement and right-of-way shall hereafter be permitted, nor shall automobiles, trucks, motor vehicles, animals or other personal property, not any building or other structure, be parked, stored, constructed or permitted upon any part of said easement of right-of-way”.

    A bit about the lane. It is a single lane, unimproved gravel and extends up to the top of a hill where the lane ends at the 8th home. The grade on the lane ranges from 5-20%. There have always been concerns about individuals driving too fast on the lane, with residents mostly maintaining speeds of 15mph max; this too frequently not the case for non-resident traffic. The last 3 properties, ours included are on heavily wooded land with the woods reaching up to the easement on both sides of the right-of-way. With the terrain & the woods, there are blind hills & driveways on both ingress & egress. There are families with children living on the lane that have expressed concern about speeds driven on the lane, especially from non-residents. Residents use the lane as pedestrians & there are both domestic & farm animal in the area that occasionally cross the lane.

    The issue: the newest (and hopefully last) build at the far end of the lane is owned by an individual who desires to have the lane paved. There are two owners before arriving at this home, with 600+ & 200+ feet of right-of way respectively. The individual personally spoke to us about the wish to pave as far down as could be afforded. We have not really been interested in paving, nor do we desire such improvement secondary to speed concerns & have considered the unimproved surface to be a valuable traffic calming element; this was expressed to the owner wishing to pave. However, to keep peaceful relations we agreed to allow part of the lane crossing our property to be paved as long as it was understood that we would be purchasing & installing one or two 2 ½ inch high speed bumps to keep traffic from gaining speed as the came down some of the steepest grade & approached our driveway. We also agreed that ‘temporary’ bumps could be installed so that they would not be an impediment to plowing in the winter. The resident was enthusiastic & agreed to our wishes. It was also stated that we would not be putting any money up for said paving.

    Come paving day, the entire length of our property was paved. As anticipated, the speeds on the lane increased significantly, especially egress down the hill upon our property. As understood, we purchased 2 ½” high, 12” wide, 72" long, rubber speed bumps & alerted the two neighbors up the lane that we would be installing them along with proper signage. The neighbor with children was thrilled. The neighbor at the top of the lane stated they alone paid for the paving & did not want anyone ‘messing up the driveway’. Furthermore we were informed that if everyone drove a reasonable speed & kept all non-vehicles off the lane all would be fine. It was also stated that as legal access to others property we can’t install the speedbumps. We were also told that our permission was not needed to pave or make changes on the part of the right-of-way that crossed our property. Finally, we were informed that if the speedbumps were installed they would be removed b/c the neighbor in question has 2 sports cars with low ground clearance.

    My questions:

    (1) It is my understanding that the above right-of-way does not grant property rights; but privilege of unimpeded ingress & egress. Therefore the dominant tenant at the end of the lane did not have the right to pave any part of the right-of-way on another’s property without permission. Is this true? What right do others in the right-of-way agreement have over the lane that crosses our property beyond ingress/egress/regress? Can they make significant changes within the easement parameters without our permission?

    (2) Might the installation of properly spaced (let’s say a single speedbump for ease of discussion), low, speedbump constitute an obstruction? The neighbor is claiming that this will impede use of the lane, but we trialed the speed bumps with a low clearance vehicle (similar if not exact to the aforementioned sports cars) and if speed is reduced to 10mph there is no concern. Which is the object of a speed bump.

    (3) Does this person have the right to remove said speed bump if it is installed on the right-of-way crossing our property? Would this constitute a criminal act?

    Please note: we are doing everything to mediate this concern & come to an acceptable agreement for all parties considered without having to seek legal recourse. What we seek to clarify are our rights as well as the rights of the other tenets concerning the right-of-way.
     
  2. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    The following is just my layman's opinion for the 2 cents that it's worth but I spent 35 years of my life analyzing insurance policies so I think I can analyze an easement document with some clarity.

    I imagine that it's not going to come as a surprise to you that I tell you that you should have gotten this agreement in writing before anything was actually done.

    Yes.

    But, if I read your post right, you gave permission for your part to be paved, although that permission doesn't appear to have been necessary..

    None.

    The easement is limited to egress and ingress.


    I don't know what you think "significant changes" means. While it may certainly be an "improvement" I don't consider paving a dirt road as a "significant change" because it's still a road.

    The easement doesn't obligate anybody to improve or repair anything or to pay for any improvements or repairs made by others but it doesn't prohibit anybody from making improvements and/or repairs as long as they pay for it themselves.

    Yes.

    Quoting the easement:

    A speed bump is and "obstruction" and prevents the "unhampered" use of the easement.

    I think anybody who regularly drives over the damned things in parking lots would agree.


    I'm sure you would like to call the police and have whoever touches your speed bumps arrested but, no, it's not a criminal act to move them to the side of the road when you had no business putting them there in the first place without the consent of the neighbor who doesn't want them there.

    The way I see it, from reading the easement, is that your agreement about the speed bumps is unenforceable. The neighbor who did the paving did not need your consent, but you need the express written consent of all the users of the road to install the speed bumps.
     

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