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Thread: Utility Easement Problem Developing

  1. #1

    Utility Easement Problem Developing

    'Morning all... I've got trouble brewing and I don't have any familiarity with the overall issues...

    Yesterday, AT&T knocked on my door and said they needed to replace a box in my backyard and trench a new line a few houses down. The guy said they'd repair all the grass and specifically said they would 'seed and straw it'.

    Now, normally this wouldn't be an issue. It's the back corner of my lot and I'm not (normally) a super fanatic about my lawn quality. HOWEVER, it just so happens that I completely re-did that easement area and corner of the lot in the fall. Whole 9 yards: killed it off, tilled it, amended it, peat moss, fertilizer, seed, watered 3 times a day for weeks, 2nd fert and overseeding. Whole 9 yards. Not a whole lot of money involved, but a LOT of time. It came out BEAUTIFULLY. It looks almost like a golf course.

    So my problem is this: it's 99% weed free and straw always contains weed seeds. I also don't know what kind of seed they'd use (rye, fescue, bluegrass, etc). I know it's my fault for making my easement look nice, and they have a right to work in the easement, but I still don't want my work destroyed.

    Can anyone suggest ways I might be able to work with these guys? Maybe provide them my seed mix and just grin and bear the straw? In an ideal world, I want them to sod it using the same cultivars (the business I bought the seed mix from also sells sod of those mixes). They haven't started work, but looking at their paint markers and string, it's only 300-400sqft of potential damage.

    Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Austin, Texas
    Posts
    1,448
    I would start by figuring what it would take to make you happy. For discussion that may be something like installing 350 square feet of premium sod.

    I would then call the utility company, get hold of a manager (my line is often, "If I can convince you of xxx, do you have the authority to implement my request?") Calmly explain that you spent hundreds of hours and a small fortune fixing up that corner of your property, and today it is as beautiful as a golf course.. You want to cooperate with their easement in any way you can, but you also want to be sure things get back to normal - not just some cheap grass seed and weed-filled straw. How can he "make you whole."

    Make you whole is a key term. If you have an accident in a rusty car, making you whole only requires replacing the fender with one that is no more rusty than the one before. If you have an accident in a brand new car, making you whole requires a new fender perfectly installed. Making you whole is a key legal concept.

    Around our neighborhood the utilities match the color and the texture of the sidewalks and driveways they mess up, and redo the grass better than it was before (although we don't have topsoil, so the grass is a trick)
    Charlie Plesums, Austin Texas
    (Retired early to become a custom furnituremaker)
    Lots of my free advice at www.solowoodworker.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    S E Washington State
    Posts
    3,777
    I would be likely to request they fill in and smooth the area they disturb, but let you get the sod and fill in the grass. I don't have any idea how much the that much sod costs, but sounds to me it might be worth it to you. I cannot see why they would object to that. I've always been fussy about my lawn, well not maybe to the extent you are, but I've always kept it nice, but then we got a new puppy..... I don't know if I will ever get it repaired.
    Last edited by Paul Douglass; 04-04-2014 at 05:18 PM.
    "We the People ......"

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Posts
    13,439
    How long are they going to have it dug up? Would it be worth renting a sod cutter and moving that grass for a few days until they complete the work and then roll it back out?
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Escondido, CA
    Posts
    5,172
    One improves easements at their own risk. Depending on how you deal with the utility may be the deciding factor. They have every right to use the easement as they see fit and largely have no responsibility to return it to the condition it was in prior to that. Any repairs they do is a bonus. I'd suggest the hat in hand approach and see what sort of compromised you can reach. The point is to politely ask how together you can make it like it was.

    Worked for Telco for years. Had one lady who refused access as she had fenced off the yard and easement. Further she had a dog she refused to contain. Neighbor had a phone problem but this lady refused to co-operate. Cops called. Got access. Fixed the neighbor's phone line. Later the NN got legal notice to move the fence and provide unrestricted access to the easement. She failed to comply. Within 2 months, bulldozers arrived and in a matter of hours she had debris stacked on her yard and there was an unrestricted access to the easement. She was bucking the phone company, the electric company and the cable company. She lost. The message from my POV was to co-operate in every fashion as I am sure you will.
    ++++++

    Some say the land of milk and honey; others say the land of fruits and nuts. All together my sort of heaven.

    Power is not taken. It is given. Who have you given yours to? Hmmmm?

    Carol Reed

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    S E Washington State
    Posts
    3,777
    Just to add, my theory is the city gains by being somewhat accommodating. I've see lots of places where the homeowner just lets the easement area go to ruin, and it looks terrible. I think they will surely work with you is you approach it right.
    "We the People ......"

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    North West Indiana
    Posts
    6,098
    I dreaded the phone company trenching in mom and dad's telephone line last year. Had to come all the way down our drive, right turn and follow their drive, through a gateway to their house. Saw them unloading the machine as I left for school, got home and wondered why they didn't do the job. They had, it was that slick and easy. I think you will be surprised. (pleasantly)
    Jon

    God and family, the rest is icing on the cake. I'm so far behind, I think I'm in first place!

    Host of the 2015 FAMILY WOODWORKING GATHERING

  8. #8
    WOW! Thank you all for the detailed advice and opinions! I do have a phone number of someone who's supposed to be overseeing this, so I'll call him first thing Monday.

    Charlie - Good advice. I need to decide what I want before I know what to ask for.
    Paul - That's not really a preferred option because I'm re-doing my work again. I guess that could be a minimally acceptable option.
    Darren - I'm not familiar with sod cutting. They say they'll start Tuesday and be done Wednesday.
    Carol - You're right, improve at my own peril. It's just that the timing is frustrating. I'd rather have them do as Paul suggests than have them lay down weedy straw and cheap seed.
    Paul again - That was actually my problem. Last fall was my 3rd fall in the house. Previous owner had neglected the easement and my treating it like the rest of my lawn wasn't working. It was probably 40% weeds and had developed some viney weeds I was worried would tunnel the fence. Needed a do-over.
    Jonathan - Honestly, it's the machines more than the trenching that worries me. Bobcat, trucks, whatever. The grass is barely 7 months old, the growing season just started here, so I figure the roots are quite shallow. Plus I tilled up everything last fall and recently disturbed land is easier to tear up than compacted old land.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Posts
    13,439
    Quote Originally Posted by David Agnew View Post
    WOW! Thank you all for the detailed advice and opinions! I do have a phone number of someone who's supposed to be overseeing this, so I'll call him first thing Monday.

    Charlie - Good advice. I need to decide what I want before I know what to ask for.
    Paul - That's not really a preferred option because I'm re-doing my work again. I guess that could be a minimally acceptable option.
    Darren - I'm not familiar with sod cutting. They say they'll start Tuesday and be done Wednesday.
    Carol - You're right, improve at my own peril. It's just that the timing is frustrating. I'd rather have them do as Paul suggests than have them lay down weedy straw and cheap seed.
    Paul again - That was actually my problem. Last fall was my 3rd fall in the house. Previous owner had neglected the easement and my treating it like the rest of my lawn wasn't working. It was probably 40% weeds and had developed some viney weeds I was worried would tunnel the fence. Needed a do-over.
    Jonathan - Honestly, it's the machines more than the trenching that worries me. Bobcat, trucks, whatever. The grass is barely 7 months old, the growing season just started here, so I figure the roots are quite shallow. Plus I tilled up everything last fall and recently disturbed land is easier to tear up than compacted old land.
    Bledsoe and other rentals should have a sod cutter, it's a machine that has a vibrating blade that runs about 2" deep and will make a clean cut of sod with the roots and soil still attached. If they are done that quickly you can just roll up the sod for the area they are working in, set it aside, and put it back down the next day or two. Water daily for two weeks and it should all take root again pretty quickly.

    Did they say they would be trenching? Sometimes they just use a machine that splits the ground and stuff the cable in the opening as it moves along. Might look like a mole went through that area for a bit, but no worse than the edges of sod showing.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Humid Gulf Coast
    Posts
    542
    That is probably the safest route. Plus stand out there when they are backfilling and make sure they leave without seeding and strawing.
    It's kind of fun to do the impossible

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