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Easements (in VA in particular)

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Learner
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Think linear utility projects...

Say you are commissioned to prepare plats to obtain new easements on existing tracts in VA.  Do you perform full boundary surveys of every individual tract, or do enough boundary survey in the field to verify that occupation and field monumentation agree reasonably with plat, and then prepare easements based on plat geometry?  Or do you perform a full boundary survey on each affected tract?  Other jurisdictions besides VA welcome to chime in...

 
Posted : November 23, 2022 7:37 am
MightyMoe
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I've worked with utilities for 40 years.

It depends, but often you will find that conditions on the ground require easements to be over granted. In other words a fence 20 west of a boundary line gets an easement from the east parcel starting on the fence while ending the west parcel easement on the boundary line.

The calls are very important always call out the boundary and often the occupation lines. Protect your client, if you can't figure out the boundary without massive expense then be sure and capture enough ground to cover it no matter what happens.

I will even write a long easement through a number of tracts in sequence and have each landowner sign for the entire length. They get paid on their portion, usually a bit more than what they actually own.

Go over it with your client, of course, the best way is to figure out each boundary line and stop/start the easement on it. We are doing that now for a massive boring project in downtown getting ready for street re-construction.  

 
Posted : November 23, 2022 3:31 pm
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aliquot
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Usually that is unnecessary. You need to survey enough to locate where the easement enters and leaves each property with respect to their corners, and of course any line that that the easement follows or parallels. 

Often that will only require locating the nearest  two corners of each line the easement intersects, but of course sometimes that will require tying in other more distant corners. 

 
Posted : November 24, 2022 12:04 pm
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holy cow
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As a landowner, I will fight to have an EXACT DESCRIPTION  of the part of my land on which I will have limitations as to what I can do on that land FOREVER.  If that means making the entity needing the easement to take me to court, so be it.  Surveying it properly will cost them one heck of a lot less than fighting with lawyers.

This BS of finding a known point on say the north line of the northwest quarter and a known point on the west line of the northwest quarter and then writing something like "All that part of (my four acre tract) being impacted by an easement 50 feet in width and being 25 feet either side of a center line described as follows:  Beginning at a point on the north line of the northwest quarter...........................and ending at a point on the west line of said northwest quarter being............................"

That is blatant horse droppings and tells the landowner nothing they can see, touch, feel on the ground with certainty and where their perpetual limitations begin and end.

The surveying profession needs to stand up and demand complete boundary surveying of all easements, regardless of the end use of that easement.

 
Posted : November 24, 2022 1:30 pm
Jitterboogie reacted
aliquot
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@holy-cow I agree, but for some reason many surveyors don't see any options between a complete survey of the servient parcel and the paper pushers descriptions that you described.

 
Posted : November 24, 2022 7:29 pm
Learner
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Thanks for the feedback, all.  Most of the time, I see disclaimers like "complete boundary survey not performed".  I also almost always see attorneys require complete metes and bounds calls on easements, as opposed to something like "25 feet along the western property line, or referenced to a centerline or baseline..  If you don't actually do a complete boundary (of at least the intersected lines), then how do you accurately establish the points along the existing property line perpendicular(ish) to the long axis of the easement and turn this into an accurate metes and bounds?

In VA, if you establish a new corner on an existing line, you are required to establish both ends of that line.  It seems to me that it would be a reasonable extension of this logic to establish each end of any property line a proposed easement crosses.  I do not see that the regulations here require this standard of care, though.  If you follow this to its conclusion, it essentially results in a complete boundary survey of every lot in areas with "small" lots relative to the easement size and width....  This could get very expensive, really quickly.

It seems to me that the established "standard of care" I've seen is generally closer to the line of thinking that the easement is defined more by the centerline of the utility, and less by the metes and bounds.

 
Posted : November 25, 2022 5:12 am

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holy cow
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The cost of a true boundary survey of each tract is miniscule relative to the benefit derived by the benefit holder over the life of said easement, which may far exceed 100 years.

On a similar vein, all utility and street/highway maintenance work should require a land surveyor be involved to locate and replace any survey monuments that would be within the path/area of the intended work.  This is another area where the surveying profession needs to make their collective voice heard.

 
Posted : November 25, 2022 10:01 am
FairbanksLS
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@holy-cow 

I agree 100 percent.  The problem is who will enforce it?  Especially when it is a private entity.  Somebody has to pay for the enforcement.  Ultimately that burden will fall on the consumer or the taxpayer, more likely both.  As a landowner maybe I should defend and protect my own interests. That can be as simple as telling the contractor to replace the corner monument that I have maintained.

 
Posted : November 25, 2022 10:45 am
Andy Bruner
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@holy-cow  For 20+ years I surveyed for and prepared easement forms for utilities, mostly sanitary sewer lines and water lines.  While I agree that a complete boundary survey is preferable, surveying a 100 acre parcel to obtain an easement 200 feet long would be cost prohibitive here.

The "sketches" that I prepared and the written easement called for "beginning where the line enters said property and ends where the line exits the property and is centered on the line hereinafter installed".  We did stake the lines so the property owner could see exactly where the lines were to be (+/- how close the contractor could install the line).

Andy

 
Posted : November 25, 2022 12:17 pm
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holy cow
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Just tossing this discussion out there to be chewed upon.

There is a big difference between a small, short easement and one that runs across four states.

Ripping out survey monuments that landowners paid to have installed is pathetic.

 
Posted : November 25, 2022 1:34 pm
Jitterboogie reacted
Norman Oklahoma
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Posted by: @holy-cow

This BS of ..... writing something like "All that part of (my four acre tract) being impacted by an easement 50 feet in width and being 25 feet either side of a center line described as follows: 

I disagree.

The solution to this problem is fully monumenting the run of the easement. Then you know just where it is.  Tying the writing easements to each and every property it crosses creates a nightmare when it comes time to recover the easement (or right of way). If we are talking large acreages the issue is less of a headache, but if the easement runs across several lot sized house sites - oh brother. 

I recommend that the easement be written just as you say it should not be, tie it to section lines and monuments where possible, and monument it well. Include monument calls in the description.  

 
Posted : November 25, 2022 3:08 pm
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holy cow
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"The solution to this problem is fully monumenting the run of the easement. Then you know just where it is."

Ah, but, you don't know where it is if you are the landowner who acquired the property after the easement went through.  It is incredibly important to know on small tracts as the easement frequently represents a significant fraction of the entire tract.  Placement of new buildings or in-ground pools could be a no-go situation, depending on exactly where the easement is located.

On large rural tracts, the survey is much easier, but still extremely important to the landowner.  You may be tying up quite a number of acres, which in some areas of the country are extremely valuable.

The amounts paid for easements become laughable in the future.  I can think of an instance where eleven pipes run with standard petroleum products or fiber optic lines side by side in an easement for which the landowner was paid 20 cents per linear foot of easement crossing the property (not 11 times that amount) in 1929.

 

 
Posted : November 25, 2022 3:59 pm

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aliquot
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@andy-bruner this is only done because landowners don't know any better. It just kicks the can down the road and transfers the cost of the survey from the easement holder to the servient estate owner. 

 
Posted : November 26, 2022 6:32 am
aliquot
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Posted by: @holy-cow

Just tossing this discussion out there to be chewed upon.

There is a big difference between a small, short easement and one that runs across four states.

Ripping out survey monuments that landowners paid to have installed is pathetic.

What's the difference? Is it less important to know where one is than the other? 

Who is ripping out survey monuments?

 

 
Posted : November 26, 2022 6:37 am
holy cow
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A ten-foot easement just inside the back lines of identical lots in a typical rectangular block is one thing.  A one-hundred foot wide easement curving through a 40-acre tract is quite another.

In the  first situation, the landowner can guess fairly well where the burdened area is located but the contractors will manage to rip out every survey monument existing along those back lines because they haven't bothered to know where that easement exists IN FACT.  Few, if any, survey monuments may be near the location of the second situation, but, the area burdened needs to be well defined.

@aliquot  You truly enjoy bickering, don't you?  You must not own much real estate or never leave your desk.

 
Posted : November 26, 2022 7:25 am

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