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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2010

    Default Just How Landlocked is "Landlocked"

    My question involves an easement in the state of: Iowa.

    I apologize for the length of this post, but I want to give all the details possible.

    We own 10 acres of wooded "Loess Hills" land bordered on the west side by a main county road. (See This land plus over 300 acres behind it was in the family for over 100 years. The land behind us was "lost" about 30 years ago. (Long story involving remarriage, death, and a mysteriously missing will. We wish we could buy it back, but we're not financially able. Yet.)

    The man who purchased the land behind has been bugging us (and my wife's mother before us) for an ingress/egress easement to the land behind. He wants it so he can conveniently drive his truck and horse trailer back to a clearing that borders our property on the east, so they can ride horses on the land. Lately he has started to talk about taking us to court for an easement. He told me we would have no choice since he claims his land is "landlocked."

    The proposed easement would be about 1/8 mile long, and wide enough to cut a road. He wants this easement up the bottom of a ravine that cuts through the center of our land, next to our water well (which sits above the ravine edge). It would require major excavation with a bulldozer to completely alter the grade. Also, since the Loess Hills soil is fragile and caves off easily, it would require cutting wider than necessary in order to alter the slopes up the sides of the ravine. This could cause irreparable damage to our water well, and could also cause our own driveway-- which parallels the top of the ravine and has been there for decades-- to cave off, making it unusable for us.

    It would also destroy nearly an acre of hardwoods that we have registered with the state as Forest Conservancy. This is not protection, but gives us a tax break because we promised the state we would maintain the forest basically as is. This could make us liable for back taxes on the affected land.

    In looking at the county plat maps, the east end of his property borders the end of a county-maintained dirt road that is passable most of the year. I know this because I use it regularly to access public land that borders his property. That end of the property is nearly a mile back, but to us that means his land is NOT landlocked. Not only does he have access to the property from that side, but he has a large open field there that is conveniently usable by a truck and trailer.

    We regularly have people come onto our property from his land, on ATV's and on horseback, proving it is accessible for these uses from the east end. (We don't mind this, as it is not a big nuisance and no damage is done.)

    From the east end, there is an old road that winds down the valley between the hills, and ultimately connects with the clearing that borders us. He has maintained parts of this road, and even created a new section when it became overgrown with brush. While it is not passable full-length by a truck and horse trailer, it is certainly passable by ATV's and horseback starting from the east end. It is not necessary to unload the horses from the clearing against our property.

    So it appears to us that he wants this easement purely for his own convenience, not out of any true necessity.

    It's interesting that he rails against motorcycles and ATV's crossing his property because "they tear up the land and create washouts," but he thinks nothing of wanting to destroy an acre of our remaining land for his convenience.

    Finally, we have always given him, his family, and his friends open permission to use our existing driveway to access the clearing on the east. The driveway forks about 3/4 of the way up. One fork goes to our house, the other turns east and connects to the clearing. He says he doesn't want to do that. Excuses range from being a bother to us (it is not a bother) to not wanting to drive his truck and trailer around the curve in the driveway (which has been negotiated in the past by much bigger rigs). We are willing to give him a more formal written license to use our driveway for this access.

    I hope I have described the situation in enough detail. We don't have the money to hire an attorney to fight him if he wants to go to court. Does he even have a case, or is he trying to bluff us? We suspect that his main purpose is to raise the value of the land so he can sell it.

    If necessary, we are prepared to set up a Conservation Easement with an organization like "Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation," which works to preserve and protect the Loess Hills. We and our children are in agreement that we don't want this land spoiled by any development.

    If we need to go with a Conservation Easement, is there a way we can "lock it down" while we go through that process?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006

    Default Re: Just How Landlocked is "Landlocked"

    landlocked means there is no frontage to any public roadway to allow access to the property without crossing over another's land. You said his property does border a public road. That is his access. He would have no claim to an easement of any sort based on that. There is no requirement you provide access because it is more convenient for him.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Just How Landlocked is "Landlocked"

    For starters, I would recommend reading up on Owens v. Brownlie, No. 56/98-1133 (Iowa 2000) for a recent rural landlocking case from Benton County. Landlocking in Iowa is not strictly a common law issue but covered by statutes referred to in the above case. An easement was granted to the plaintiff even though there was historic use of another access. Here is a link:

    My take on your situation is that the neighbor is not landlocked.

    Conservation easements are very restrictive and I have seen one stop a case of eminent domain cold here in Ohio. But your mileage may vary and there are no guarantees. Make sure that you are represented by an attorney if you are considering granting a conservation easement, no matter how altruistic you think the grantee appears to be.

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