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  1. #1
    RidgeTrail is offline Junior Member
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    Do my neighbors have the right to use my easement?

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? Minnesota

    My neighbor and I live at the dead end of a cul-de-sac Township road with a 60' access easement between our property. (30 feet on either side of the center property line). The neighbors and surrounding community have accustomed themselves with making their own trail through our property to continue their hiking/biking/fourwheeling/snowmobiling, etc. as they so choose. My neighbor and I would like to restrict access to the general public as I feel they are not entitled to use the easement. The neighbors argue that it is a Right of Way (clearly it is not) and the Township owns it (clearly I retain private property rights and pay taxes on the easement), so they are entitled to cross. The neighbors have recently petitioned the Town Board to construct a "Public Trail" through the easement. And since I live in a small community, two of the Town Board members are also my neighbors!

    The exact wording as recorded on my Deed is as follows: "Subject to an access easement affecting the westerly 30' of premises being reserved by the Grantor for itself and assigns." The Grantor in this case is The Township. The language to me is extremely vague.

    I agree there is an easement, but I argue over who has the right to access my property. I feel "The Township" is a unit of local governmental entity and if they needed to access the land (for example to maintain a community well - of which there is none) then they certainly have the right - much like a utility easement. I do not feel that the language grants access to John Q. Public who likes to go hiking through my property.

    Is there any legal recourse I have to restrict the "Township" from giving the general public the right to pass through my property? Or can they do whatever they want? In my opinion the odds are against me since two neighbors who like to use the trail are also on the Town Board making the decision.

    Do I have a case? Any comments or advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time.
  2. #2
    FarmerJ is online now Senior Member
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    Reading your posting , I had to read it more than once ( just in from my overnight shift and am pooped) So anywho what I was not able to figure out is is this a easement that originally was to benefit you and one niegbhor ? When you posted > The Grantor in this case is The Township< to me that says you do not own that 30 ft strip but the local govt is owner then in another place you say (clearly I retain private property rights and pay taxes on the easement), < SO if easement is owned by local govt you cannot be taxed for it , you can be taxed for YOUR own land. SO again if township owns the land I gotta ask was the easement to get to other twp property behind your both ? In order to gate each end of this easement and lock it you and the nbr would have to literally own the land not just having some kind of easment rights to use it but OWN It. Any who off to bed LOL
  3. #3
    154NH773 is offline Member
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    My reading of your post says: You and your neighbor own the 30' either side of the property line. You, or a predecessor, bought this property from the Town. The Town retained a right-of-way 60' wide; half of the width is on your property.

    If that is correct, then the Town can use the easement for whatever it likes. There does not seem to be any restriction on what they could use it for. It was probably retained so that "townspeople" could still gain access to the property behind you, which would appear to be Town property (although you don't make that clear).

    Of course you pay taxes on the easement. It is your property. Somewhere back in the past, either you or a prior owner agreed to that arrangement, and you should have been aware of it and took that into consideration when you purchased the property. There is nothing you can do now to reverse it; Sorry.
    Last edited by 154NH773; 07-04-2012 at 03:46 PM.
  4. #4
    RidgeTrail is offline Junior Member
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    Originally, the road and neighborhood was developed by a private investor. The developer built the road, put in electrical and gas service, two community wells, and each property was responsible for their own septic system. So I and my neighbor originally purchased the vacant land from the developer, and the "Grantor" with access to the easement originally was the private developer. Then a year later after we both built homes, the Township took over the road from the developer, and the easement was assigned to the Township.

    The 30' on either side of our property is an easement, owned by my neighbor and I, with access granted to the Township. It is NOT a right-of-way, and the Township does NOT own the easement.

    The property they wish to access through the easement is actually in another County, and another Township. I so happen to live right on the County line. There is nothing within the easement (appx. 60' x 185') that needs accessing. The neighbors simply wish to pass through. The landowner behind my neighbor and I is a different private developer. They have put in a gravel road, electrical and gas utilities, but since the economy is down and the lots are over $100,000, no one is buying or building homes. The developer has given permission to allow people to walk through the vacant lots, but he doesn't care since he's not living there. As soon as someone buys and builds behind us, it will be someones private back yard. There is no easement on this development, and if the new owner restricts access the trail my township wishes to build will be a road to nowhere.

    I still have a question as to who the "Township" is and includes? The definition of "Township" is a unit of local government. Does it include any resident that lives within the Township borders? Does it include the general public as a whole? Does it include residents from the neighboring different "Township 2"? Since I live on the County line people from both sides, both Townships and both Countys like to travel the path. The language I read in my deed simply states access to my Township, not the neighboring community.

    Thanks again for your advice.
  5. #5
    LdiJ is online now Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by RidgeTrail View Post
    Originally, the road and neighborhood was developed by a private investor. The developer built the road, put in electrical and gas service, two community wells, and each property was responsible for their own septic system. So I and my neighbor originally purchased the vacant land from the developer, and the "Grantor" with access to the easement originally was the private developer. Then a year later after we both built homes, the Township took over the road from the developer, and the easement was assigned to the Township.

    The 30' on either side of our property is an easement, owned by my neighbor and I, with access granted to the Township. It is NOT a right-of-way, and the Township does NOT own the easement.

    The property they wish to access through the easement is actually in another County, and another Township. I so happen to live right on the County line. There is nothing within the easement (appx. 60' x 185') that needs accessing. The neighbors simply wish to pass through. The landowner behind my neighbor and I is a different private developer. They have put in a gravel road, electrical and gas utilities, but since the economy is down and the lots are over $100,000, no one is buying or building homes. The developer has given permission to allow people to walk through the vacant lots, but he doesn't care since he's not living there. As soon as someone buys and builds behind us, it will be someones private back yard. There is no easement on this development, and if the new owner restricts access the trail my township wishes to build will be a road to nowhere.

    I still have a question as to who the "Township" is and includes? The definition of "Township" is a unit of local government. Does it include any resident that lives within the Township borders? Does it include the general public as a whole? Does it include residents from the neighboring different "Township 2"? Since I live on the County line people from both sides, both Townships and both Countys like to travel the path. The language I read in my deed simply states access to my Township, not the neighboring community.

    Thanks again for your advice.
    Easements are usually granted for a specific, defined purpose. I suspect that your easement may have been granted with the intent to continue the road if/when further building was done. You really need to find out the purpose of the easement before it can be determined whether or not it can be used by the general public.
  6. #6
    justalayman is offline Senior Member
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    So I and my neighbor originally purchased the vacant land from the developer, and the "Grantor" with access to the easement originally was the private developer.

    The exact wording as recorded on my Deed is as follows: "Subject to an access easement affecting the westerly 30' of premises being reserved by the Grantor for itself and assigns." The Grantor in this case is The Township. The language to me is extremely vague.
    which is it?


    If the first, the second is obviously not possible and vice versa.


    There is nothing within the easement (appx. 60' x 185') that needs accessing
    and? That is not unusual. In fact, that is typical in an easement granted for access.


    The definition of "Township" is a unit of local government. Does it include any resident that lives within the Township borders?
    the township is the township but given the vagueness of the grant, it would appear the township can allow use of the easement as they determine is proper. That would include use by the general public.

    Does it include the general public as a whole?
    no but see immediately above

    Does it include residents from the neighboring different "Township 2"?
    no but see above

    The language I read in my deed simply states access to my Township, not the neighboring community.
    but you said:

    "Subject to an access easement affecting the westerly 30' of premises being reserved by the Grantor for itself and assigns."
    It does not limit it to township use only. In fact, the township is not even mentioned.

    It could make a difference who the actual grantor was.

    You also need to research the possibility of any document describing the easement more thoroughly. That document, if there is one, might provide more insight as to the intended purpose and allowed use of the easement.
  7. #7
    RidgeTrail is offline Junior Member
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    The initial intent and specific purpose of the easement was to construct a road, however this was told to me verbally and I find no legal documentation stating this. The road idea was squashed, as the private land owners on the other side could not reach an agreement. They did not wish to sell their property to have a road constructed.

    The "Grantor" was originally the developer, then it was assigned to the Township, transferring the easement and the road I live on into their control.
  8. #8
    FarmerJ is online now Senior Member
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    Best bet for you is to meet with a real estate atty who can lay out for you what the cost may be if you were to claim the easement to be over burdened by a trail being built and to speak to the atty to see if its possible to force the twp to purchase the easement land from both of you as part of a solution.
  9. #9
    Stevef is offline Senior Member
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    It sounds like you're going to need a lawyer to deal with this.

    It's possible that you can file an action to quiet title claiming that the reason for the easement (access to build a road) no longer exists, and therefore the easement should be terminated.
  10. #10
    justalayman is offline Senior Member
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    I concur with Stevef on this. That is why I was making the point of who the true grantor was as well as seeking out any other more defined description of the easement. Look to the plat maps to start.

    If there is no possibility of the easement being used for the intended purpose, you may be able to have it terminated.

    Beyond that, if it was for a road, while it may remain an existing easement, that alone may not allow for the use unless the intended road is created. There are many many such easements in existence but they are constructed so they do not allow any use of the easement until a road is created. Yours may have been recorded as such.
  11. #11
    154NH773 is offline Member
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    If there is no possibility of the easement being used for the intended purpose, you may be able to have it terminated.
    The problem I see with this is that the "intended purpose" is not spelled out in any document, and therefore the township has the right to do pretty much what it pleases with the property. I think any fight with the town over the use would be defeated in court (my opinion).

    Also, to the OP; it doesn't matter that you own the property and they don't. The township owns a right to utilize the property that overrides your ownership. You may still use the property as your own, provided that you don't interfere with the township's right to utilize the property.

    A trail is less burdensome than a road, you should feel lucky.

    A suggestion not yot mentioned is that you and your neighbor offer the town a sum of money to buy out their rights in the easement and extinguish it. See if you can get it put to a local vote (not sure of your process) if the taxpayers would rather get some cold hard cash (tax relief), or have a trail that few would utilize, and the town would be responsible for maintenance ($$ more taxes).
    Last edited by 154NH773; 07-05-2012 at 04:54 PM.
  12. #12
    Stevef is offline Senior Member
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    One more suggestion:

    It sounds to me like this easement is simply a dead end that leads from the street to privately owned, unimproved lots.

    Talk to the owner of the unimproved lots and see if they will sell you a negative easement, where the lot owners will not permit any use of the lot for "trail" purposes.
  13. #13
    justalayman is offline Senior Member
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    154NH773;3069829]The problem I see with this is that the "intended purpose" is not spelled out in any document, and therefore the township has the right to do pretty much what it pleases with the property. I think any fight with the town over the use would be defeated in court (my opinion).
    that's why the search for the document actually creating the document. It is unlikely there isn't something more than what was in the OP's deed somewhere such as the plat that was filed for OP's subdivision.
  14. #14
    FarmerJ is online now Senior Member
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    ? what if any docs are on file say like developers site plans for the property behind yours even though its not the same county as yours where it shows the lots as they are set up now ? See where im going with this is when you do speak to a atty , if you come up with a plan that goes after your local govt to get them to give up the easement a tool to have would be to have say plat map that shows no allowence has been made by that developer to provide a easement for a road or trail or connection to the easement on your side of the line ( part of your arguement in that the easement would be pointless if it leads to a dead end not connected to anything)
  15. #15
    154NH773 is offline Member
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    say plat map that shows no allowence has been made by that developer to provide a easement for a road or trail or connection to the easement on your side of the line ( part of your arguement in that the easement would be pointless if it leads to a dead end not connected to anything)
    I hear what you are saying, but just as pointless would be a trail blessed by the township that goes nowhere except onto private property in another jurisdiction.

    I agree that more due diligence is necessary to try and find additional documents regarding the easement, but going on what the OP has said so far, he doesn't have much of a case or claim to extinguish the easement or block any use by the town.

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