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  1. #1

    Question Neighbor Put Rocks and Landscaping on Half of Our Right-of-Way

    My question involves a public road/right of way in the state of:Washington


    A 60’ wide ROW owned by the city (not deeded) runs between my neighbor’s property and ours. It serves as access to our house and the house to our north. The neighbor across the ROW from us put a rockery down the middle of the ROW, backfilled behind it and planted a hedge. They also installed a rockery blocking a portion of our fire turn around that we were required to install when we built our home. Our neighbor to the north and I have access to our homes via the remaining 30ft of ROW which they have not blocked. There are some reasons why we would like to widen our driveway into “their half” of the ROW but the access we do have is generally adequate.

    This is a very abbreviated story. There have been many confrontations over the years which have typically ended with us conceding to demands of our neighbors. Our driveway used to run down the middle of the ROW. We moved it to “our half” to keep the peace but have decided that it is not a good idea to allow our neighbors to block half of the legal access to our home.

    The city won’t get involved. Although they own the road it is privately maintained and they see it only as a dispute between neighbors. The Fire Marshal says he has enough room to maneuver in an emergency.

    In the future we would like to subdivide our property at which time a road would need to be built to City standards in the middle of the ROW where it belongs. We will face a HUGE battle with these neighbors at that time. Should we suck it up, leave things as they are and let them continue to believe they have a right to the exclusive use of this public property or should we fight for the rights we believe we have to our only legal access and our fire safety turn around.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Crazy Neighbor Built Rockery Down Middle of R.o.w. That Serves Our Home

    Ok, you say it's a ROW. The means you own 1/2 of the ROW (30') and the neighbor owns the other 30', correct?

    I am guessing it is considered an undeveloped ROW by the city.

    If so, basically, you have a right to use your 30' and they have a right to use their 30' because the city isn't considering it to be their road. Until they install a road there, it is basically just private property.


    I'm not understanding how you can build a road on the city owned ROW.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Crazy Neighbor Built Rockery Down Middle of R.o.w. That Serves Our Home

    The ROW is not deeded to us. The entire 60' is owned by the city. I guess that is unusual. We are not the only people that use the driveway. The neighbor thinks that they should get 30' and the rest of the world gets 30'. We built our shared driveway/private road in the public ROW because that is were the City told us to put it. It is considered "open" because we (and others) were granted a ROW use permit for use of the 60' ROW for access. It is not built to city street standards and we are required to pay for maintenance of it so it might be considered "undeveloped". I'm not sure of the terminology.

    I get that if a ROW is not being used for access that the adjoining neighbors often incorporate that area in to their yards. In this situation the ROW is being used as a ROW to multiple homes that have permits to use it.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Crazy Neighbor Built Rockery Down Middle of R.o.w. That Serves Our Home

    So you obtained a permit to place a driveway on land that is considered unused or unopened or unimproved ROW by the City. Has the neighbor done anything there that has cost you money, or destroyed improvements that you made (under permit) in that right-of-way? If so, you might consider seeking recompense for that, since it was a permitted use. To relocate the driveway back to the center of the ROW, my guess is that you'd have to prove to the City there is some hardship created by having it run where it currently is. I can understand their reticence to become involved with this. Besides the underlying ROW, which they have expansive rights to when they choose, they really don't have a horse in this race.

    As to the neighbors doing what they are doing, they don't really own that land if it was dedicated as right of way. If you, or them or other adjoiners decided to subdivide, and sought to improve the right-of-way and dedicate the road to the City then you'd just need to go through the process to do that. The neighbor wouldn't be able to stop that process, although they might very well try. To the best of my knowledge, you can't claim any sort of adverse possession on unopened right-of-way in Washington State. It sounds as though the neighbors have a notion that they have some claim on that property, or they just want to use it and don't really care what others think. The thing I'd watch for would be them building permanent structures or making substantial grade changes on the land within the dedicated ROW.

    Not legal advice, just an opinion from an engineer who has to deal with this sometimes.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Crazy Neighbor Built Rockery Down Middle of R.o.w. That Serves Our Home

    helenanelson;628137]The ROW is not deeded to us. The entire 60' is owned by the city. I guess that is unusual. We are not the only people that
    Ok, if the city actually owns the ROW, it is neither of yours (you or the neighbor) to do anything except what is specifically allowed by the owner of the ROW. You state your improvement was permitted by the city. Exactly what does the permit say to the issue. Redact actual names and addresses or other information that would allow one to use it to locate you.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Crazy Neighbor Built Rockery Down Middle of R.o.w. That Serves Our Home

    The permit that the previous owner of our property got says:
    ..."Your permit request for constructing driveways within the unopened ROW is subject to the following conditions:
    1. Construct a 10 foot (minimum width) crushed gravel driveway within the "XX street" ROW as shown on attachment "A".
    2. No construction activity, other than the driveways as shown on attachment A is approved under this permit.
    (attachment A is a rough sketch of the original driveway locations.)

    Our Construction documents included a site plan which was approved. The site plan shows the original location of the driveway which meandered down the middle of the ROW. When we paved a few years after we build our home we pulled the driveway to the west to appease our neighbors. The site plan also shows the required 80' fire turnaround. The neighbors installed a rockery and back filled about 15 feet in to the turnaround.

    - - - Updated - - -


    "Has the neighbor done anything there that has cost you money, or destroyed improvements that you made (under permit) in that right-of-way?"
    Yes - they covered part of our original driveway and fire turnaround, installed a rockery and back filled behind the rockery.

    "To relocate the driveway back to the center of the ROW, my guess is that you'd have to prove to the City there is some hardship created by having it run where it currently is."
    We had an attorney tell us a while back that the City does not have the right to prevent someone from using any part of that ROW for access. He was flabbergasted that our permit was not approved. It was also not formally rejected, they just threw it away with not written reason for rejecting it. I don't think they had a basis for denying our permit, did they?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Crazy Neighbor Built Rockery Down Middle of R.o.w. That Serves Our Home

    We had an attorney tell us a while back that the City does not have the right to prevent someone from using any part of that ROW for access.
    I disagree. Just because there is a ROW does not mean everybody and their brother can use it as they please. You were given permission to build a road at least 10 feet wide but sadly, no maximum width. I suspect that as long as you have at least a 10' width, they city is not going to care.

    The only claim to anything I can see is the cost to rebuild the road after the neighbor decided to lay claim to half of the ROW. Other than that, as long as you have adequate access to your property, which the fire department confirmed, I don't see any action available to you.

    The worst part of this is the grabby neighbor still has a right to use the drive you create on your side of the ROW.

    Yes, the city could come in and require the neighbor to move everything but I do not see any way to compel them to do so.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Neighbor Put Rocks and Landscaping on Half of Our Right-of-Way

    "The worst part of this is the grabby neighbor still has a right to use the drive you create on your side of the ROW."

    Yes, they do still have the right to use the driveway that we paid to build which is fine with us since it is a public right-of-way. Their kids used to play on it everyday but since our dispute started they have stopped using it.

    There is another unopened 60" ROW between them and another neighbor. They planted a row of large trees about 45' from their property line. When the tress are mature they will fill one half the width of the ROW and block the usage of what they cal "their half" from use by anyone else but themselves.

    Interestingly, their driveway is in an unopened ROW and is not entirely in "their half" of it.

    To be honest, and I see this in a lot of the posts I have read on this site, our access is adequate but the neighbors are intolerable. They are "Christians". They fling bible verses at us declaring that we are sinning, etc. They gave us a list of the 10 commandments with a list of ways we have violated them. They called our church and said that my husband should be kicked off the elder board.

    They seem to think that our wanting to uncover the part of our driveway and fire circle that they buried and moving there rockery and shrubs back from our driving lane is "coveting their half of the ROW." On the other hand their completely blocking off one half of the ROW with a rockery and shrubs is "performing their civic duty of maintaining the ROW."

    Part of me wants the hedge to grow up into an complete visual barrier/reminder and the other half want to blow their self-righteous butts out of the water (and out of the legal access to my home.)

    - - - Updated - - -

    "I disagree. Just because there is a ROW does not mean everybody and their brother can use it as they please."
    We don't want to use it any way we please, we want to use it for it's intended purpose as a right-of-way.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Neighbor Put Rocks and Landscaping on Half of Our Right-of-Way

    "I disagree. Just because there is a ROW does not mean everybody and their brother can use it as they please."
    We don't want to use it any way we please, we want to use it for it's intended purpose as a right-of-way.
    but that is you using it how you want to use it.


    The city has control here and if they don't want to use it for a roadway currently and allow the neighbor to do what they are, they can. Your attempt to alter that is you attempting to impose your desires. I understand your position but when you are using another's property (the city's), you are limited to what they allow you to do with it. You cannot demand they allow you to use all of their property as you wish.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Neighbor Put Rocks and Landscaping on Half of Our Right-of-Way

    I hear what you are saying. I was told (by an attorney a while back) that the City cannot prevent us from widening our driveway because they granted us the right to use the ROW for access. I get that they don't have to allow other uses. Have you seen any other situations where where the government has prevented use of any part of a ROW for access? Any similar situations where someone was told they could only use a narrow portion of a ROW when they wanted to use a wider portion?

    The City sees our point and they don't think it was right that the neighbor buried part of our driveway and fire turnaround but they just won't get involved.

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