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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Default Compensation for Mandatory Utility Easement

    I own a 5-acre lot with 220 feet of road frontage in Pennsylvania. The property presently has no public water or sewer service, but rather a well and septic tank. I have lived there for over 26 years.

    I recently received notice from the township that they will be installing water and sewer lines along my side of the street to service a new housing development that is under construction about a mile away. Public water and sewer service will be made available to me and all other existing property owners on my street in addition to the future homes in the new housing development.

    Two years ago the township installed water and sewer lines elsewhere in the township and forced each property owner to pay $8000 to $10,000 to share the cost of the project, whether they wanted the services or not. If they did not pay, a lien was placed on their property. Obviously, no connection to the utilities could be provided until the fee was paid.

    The notice I received indicates that the Township will handle this project the same way.

    Am I entitled to some compensation for the easement the Township will need to cross my property with their lines? If so, how much? Is eminent domain law applicable here? The 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution? If I choose not to connect to the utilities how can they assess me with a fee? Shouldn't they be paying me? If I do choose to connect, who should pay whom? I would also be charged via a meter for all water used.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Default Re: Compensation for Mandatory Utility Easement

    It is important to know state law. There is most likely an existing easement for the road. Probably the standard 30 feet on center, meaning 15 feet either side of the centerline.

    However, an interesting fact about easements is "intent." What was the original intent for the easement? In your case, just a guess, the original intent was just a road.

    There have been many a court decision where adding an unrelated utility to an easement overburdens the original intent and may require a new easement.

    Railroads tracks and co-located fiber optic cable installations is a good example.

    In my non-legal opinion, the City will either ask for an easement or just condemn your land and take it.

    Things to consider and research:

    1. Is there an existing utility easement at the road?
    2. Is your property within the City limits?
    3. Will the City consider waiving your prorated fee sharing and tap costs in exchange for a new easement?

    My advise is to take your letter to an attorney and get their opinion. That may cost a few hundred dollars, but save you thousands. Researching the easements, state law and sending the City a new easement offer is free.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Default Re: Compensation for Mandatory Utility Easement

    The only easement mentioned in my deed is one for the gas company, which has a buried line running in the same vicinity as the intended water line.

    The letter I received from the Township (no city involved here) indicated that the Township will be acquiring the necessary easements from the property owners. My question is do I have the right to be compensated FAIRLY for the easement, as would be the case with an eminent domain condemnation. I would like to have as much background information as possible BEFORE they meet with me.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2009

    Default Re: Compensation for Mandatory Utility Easement

    "Fairly" is an ambiguous term.

    When I said city, I meant within an incorporated area with eminent domain authority. I am not familiar with the Commonwealth's statutes.

    When dealing with local government, getting "fair market value" is almost nonexistent.

    IMO, I would try to negotiate an easement in exchange for a free tap and the waiving any prorated installation fees; you mentioned previous fess of 8-10k.

    Remember that easements are negotiable.

    Adding sewer and water to an existing gas easement is, in my opinion, overburdening the original intent.

    You may want to call a meeting of the neighbors and approach an single attorney and split the cost to ensure a fair easement is negotiated.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Compensation for Mandatory Utility Easement

    In Pennsylvania, as in most other states, public utilities can utilize the public road rights of way for their public purposes, based on state statutes.

    We have touched on this before here regarding Pennsylvania. We don't know if the roadway is a state highway, a township road, or a municipal street as the OP has not told us that yet. But that doesn't matter much.

    The township can most likely run their sewer and water lines anywhere they want in the road right of way. It doesn't matter what your deed says, or what the original dedication includes. They only need a permit at worst.

    Township roads in Pennsylvania are set at a minimum width of 33 feet by state law (that is two rods or one half of a surveyor's chain for an historical note) and many are wider.

    I understand your concern at the cost of hooking up to these new utilities. But the value of your property will be significantly increased.

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