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Old Yesterday, 11:48 AM
 
Location: Portland, Oregon
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It may be that your property and the neighbor's property were once on the same piece of property.
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Old Yesterday, 12:44 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nell Plotts View Post
It may be that your property and the neighbor's property were once on the same piece of property.
They certainly were the same piece of property. The old house built 1804 once had over 300 acres associated with it when it was built. By 1830 it had 100 acres of property. Then in 1941 it had 1 acre of property associated with it.

The maintenance clause was put in the 1941 deed, but keep in mind that the maintenance clause is extremely vague. Then the rest of the 100 acres was gradually turned into building lots (~150 lots) which were built from 1953-2000 with a single home built in 2010.

The 1941 deed for the single home says the owner or his assignees must "maintain in good condition and state of repair the right-of-way or private road".

The township solicitor added his interpretation:
The paved surface on top of the bridge forms part of that right-of-way and in order to maintain it in good condition and state of repair the supporting structures beneath the right-of-way, i.e., the bridge must also be maintained in good condition and state of repair.

I note:
(1) The clause can be interpreted as fixing potholes, but not necessarily building steel structures. I don't think anyone would have bought the home if he thought it meant he might have to rebuild a bridge. Remember in 1941 we are talking about a farmhouse and not a mansion. In 2021 the farmhouse is reasonably expensive as people value older buildings more, but it is still not a mansion.

(2) Even if we take a conservative approach to the meaning of the clause, Saying a clause that is one deed applies to all other homes is not legal . Normally if you want an obligation to apply to a whole neighborhood you would use another written instrument like an easement.
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Old Yesterday, 12:51 PM
 
7,667 posts, read 9,606,857 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PacoMartin View Post
The maintenance clause was put in the 1941 deed, but keep in mind that the maintenance clause is extremely vague.
I don't think the clause is vague. Rather, it's all-encompassing.
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Old Yesterday, 01:59 PM
 
Location: Western Washington
11,347 posts, read 10,088,496 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PacoMartin View Post

My question is where did we assume liability? There is nothing in our deeds that mentions a bridge, nothing in the deed from 1930, and nothing in the deed from 1919 that mentions a bridge. There is no mention of a bridge in the easements. Even the deeds that talk about maintenance talk about maintenance of roads. That could mean repairing potholes, not major construction.
Definitely a question for the court, but the counter is, where and when can you show that the township assumed liability? I understand that you don't want it, but neither does the town.

Are you going to take this to court to find out once and for all? Or are you going to ignore it until the bridge drops into the water and you can no longer get to your home?
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Old Yesterday, 02:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by fishbrains View Post
Are you going to take this to court to find out once and for all? Or are you going to ignore it until the bridge drops into the water and you can no longer get to your home?
We are still trying to work on a settlement with the township.

Part of the reason I am posting here is that in the budget this year for the township under the heading Public Works - Highways, Roads and Streets the township is spending an average of $300 per taxable parcel. The state gives the township an allocation of ~$90 per parcel out of the gasoline tax to help maintain the roads.

If we reach an agreement then come budget review meeting in October there are likely to be some citizen protests. By gauging responses on this forum I see more sympathetic responses to the township.

For instance, I describe this comment from the township solicitor as interpreting a vague clause in an old deed.
Quote:
The 1941 deed for the single home says the owner or his assignees must "maintain in good condition and state of repair the right-of-way or private road".
The township solicitor added his interpretation:
The paved surface on top of the bridge forms part of that right-of-way and in order to maintain it in good condition and state of repair the supporting structures beneath the right-of-way, i.e., the bridge must also be maintained in good condition and state of repair.
This person responded in the opposite way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackmichigan View Post
I don't think the clause is vague. Rather, it's all-encompassing.
If Jack lived in my Township he may stand up at the budget meeting saying he seriously objects to the township spending significantly more money on a project that affects only these 13 parcels and has no impact on the than the other 4600 parcels in the township.

I think I said before that I wasn't here for the first six years, but I felt that the homeowners should never have sued for a replacement bridge as public sympathy would be so against the township spending that much money. They should have sued for access. The township promised public access in the original subdivision plan, and then they removed that access by vacating the public road presumably to meet the interests of another party. The state law says if the internal roads are public, you must have public access.

Then the burden would be on the township to calculate the preferred method to give us public access. Perhaps they could give a concession to a neighbor that has an 80 acre empty field to give us access and to let him do the development he wants, without the township spending a penny.

Giving zoning concessions is a time honored way for a municipality to end disputes. The township had a massive dispute over a property next door who wanted to build a giant church and private school. The Township said no, that it would create too much traffic. The church charged racism as the township is primarily of white European descent and the church members were very multicultural. The township officials demanded a public retraction, but they changed the zoning to radically increase the permitted density allowing the church to sell the land at a massive profit. The church sold the land and used the money to upgrade their current urban campus.

Last edited by PacoMartin; Yesterday at 03:16 PM..
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Old Yesterday, 03:09 PM
 
Location: Western Washington
11,347 posts, read 10,088,496 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PacoMartin View Post
We are still trying to work on a settlement with the township.

Part of the reason I am posting here is that in the budget this year for the township under the heading Public Works - Highways, Roads and Streets the township is spending an average of $300 per taxable parcel.

If we reach an agreement then come budget review meeting in October there are likely to be some citizen protests. By gauging responses on this forum I see more sympathetic responses to the township.

For instance, I describe this comment from the township solicitor as interpreting a vague clause in an old deed.


This person responded in the opposite way.


If Jack lived in my Township he may stand up at the budget meeting saying he seriously objects to the township spending significantly more money on these 13 parcels than the other 4600 parcels in the township.
Ok. Yes, public opinion can sway political decisions.

I think that township solicitor and jackmichigan are actually in complete agreement. Jackmichigan states that the clause is all encompassing, and the solicitor is explaining why it is all encompassing.

Good luck. I would settle with the town for a ten or twenty year payback on a bond if I were you. Ideally they take over the bridge if you do that.
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Old Yesterday, 05:45 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robocall View Post
That would be my question also. How does the encumbrance of roadway maintenance get transferred to those heirs and assignees without them becoming party to that agreement each time the property, or part of it, was transferred? That is probably something that would have been part of the title search with each transfer, if one was done and should have been part of each new deed.
My working theory is that when their were only 3 homes built (the original two homes plus a new ranch) in 1955 the township approved widening the 25' private road to a 60' right of way. But it still terminated on one end in a four decade old single lane bridge only 12' wide. Over the next 7-8 years another 8 homes were built. The other end of the road terminated in a yard as it was awaiting continued development.

Then there was a gap of about 12 years until a developer capable of buying 73 acres of land and scoping out 137 building lots was able to purchase the land.

However, in the interim period the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code or the MPC (Act 247 of 1968) was passed. This new law required townships to get an approved traffic flow plan for any new development. Obviously you couldn't run major traffic to a single lane bridge so a traffic flow plan would be impossible. So the township decided to cut the connecting road from the 13 original parcels and the 137 new parcels.
For the first time in supervisor meeting minutes they began to say that the homeowners of the older homes "owned the bridge".

Keep in mind that there is nothing in any of their residents deeds or easements that says the word "bridge".

So the township could get approval under the MPC for the new 137 building lots, except by hanging the original parcels out to dry. They deliberately didn't tell the planning commission that there was no public access so that they would approve vacating the road. Instead of simply leaving the land under the road as grass and trees and available in the future to be turned into a road, they gave away the land for free so that buildings would be built on it. They refused to inspect the bridge to see what condition it was in before vacating the alternative exit.

It was a criminal act.

But they got away with it.

It seems pretty clear to me what the motivations were.

Just out of curiosity is there anyone else who sees it that way, or do you all think I am inventing a dialogue to get someone else to pay the bill?
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Old Yesterday, 07:15 PM
 
47 posts, read 7,579 times
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Two questions:

Who owns the property upon which the connecting section of Kevin Drive lies and if its width is substandard can sufficient property be purchased from the two owners on the south side to make it of legal width or from the cornfield property to the north? If they are unwilling can it be done through the process of eminent domain? That seems like it should be the least expensive and least problematic resolution and cheaper than continuing litigation for all parties at a total area of less than half an acre.

Who maintains Bella Vista west of the small stone walls near #200 and First and Second Terrace Drive? One map I saw indicates that is the location where the road widens. Who plows those roads? If the town, would that not indicate they recognize it as a public roadway?

Nice area, by the way.
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Old Yesterday, 10:48 PM
 
10,730 posts, read 11,598,075 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robocall View Post
Two questions:

Who owns the property upon which the connecting section of Kevin Drive lies and if its width is substandard can sufficient property be purchased from the two owners on the south side to make it of legal width or from the cornfield property to the north? If they are unwilling can it be done through the process of eminent domain? That seems like it should be the least expensive and least problematic resolution and cheaper than continuing litigation for all parties at a total area of less than half an acre.

Who maintains Bella Vista west of the small stone walls near #200 and First and Second Terrace Drive? One map I saw indicates that is the location where the road widens. Who plows those roads? If the town, would that not indicate they recognize it as a public roadway?

Nice area, by the way.
Yes the township is taking possession of 1/2 acre of cornfield by eminent domain.

The Township plowed those roads from 1965 to 2006 when the lawsuit was filed. Then they said they didn't own the roads and refused to plow them.

A man purchased ~ 100 acres in 1930 with these two homes: one built in 1804 and the other in 1928.
In 1941 he sold the 1804 home with 1 acre and stipulated in the deed that the owner should maintain the road colored in red.
The new owner was told that his share would go down if more houses were added.

The deed didn't specify what "maintain" meant, but at the time the roads were dirt and gravel and the presumption is that the new owner expected to pay to fix potholes. I don't think they would have bought the house if they were expected to rebuild the bridge or fix the approaches to the railroad tracks

At present day the property looks like this. My original question is should that deed for the single house (which I call vague because it doesn't mention the bridge) be held over multiple home owners to take responsibility for a bridge which is over 100 years old?


The township wants the homeowners to be fully responsible for the bridge and the bridge area. A tragedy occurred about 10 years ago when a young father drove his car and parked it next to the bridge and shot himself. Hypothetically someone could come there to commit suicide, but instead drive his car into the creek during one of our 50-100 million gallons per hour flood which seem to occur at least once per year. While tragic his family could claim that the road maintenance was poor and sue for wrongful death.

Every municipality faces this kind of threat, but they are protected by laws which limit their liability. But our homes are occupied by families which are being forced to assume this kind of liability by a township's reading of an 80 year old deed.
Attached Thumbnails
Real Estate Law regarding neighbors deed-cityforum.jpg   Real Estate Law regarding neighbors deed-city-data.jpg  
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Old Today, 12:14 AM
 
1,790 posts, read 1,316,567 times
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This is a fascinating thread. The way I see it you have 4 options (which have been already noted):

1. Do nothing. The bridge eventually fails and homes become inaccessible. Probably not a realistic or legal choice.

2. Challenge the town's position through legal channels. Expensive and time consuming. Strong possibility the outcome goes against you.

3. Negotiate a better arrangement with the town. They have already made a step in this direction and may be agreeable to sweetening the offer. This would take a lot of politicing and a lawyer with local connections.

4. Sue everyone and anyone you can - the original owner(s), title companies, attorneys who miswrote contracts, town officials. Not realistic, and the bridge will fall down before anything ever gets settled.
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