Policy 5-3 REGULATIONS GOVERNING THE USE AND ACCESS TO UTILITY EASEMENTS

DISTRIBUTION:    Mayor and City Council
        All Departments
        Utility Providers

SUBJECT:    Regulations Governing the Use and Access to Utility Easements

PURPOSE:    The purpose of this policy is to protect the use of public utility easements and rights-of-ways for their intended purposes and to maintain, repair and replace utilities located in public utility easements at the lowest cost to the consumer.

BACKGROUND:    Section 20-1-101 of the Lawton City Code, 1995 allow limited encroachments (examples such as wooden fences, small accessory structures and landscaping) upon public utility easements provided that such uses have been properly permitted prior to construction and do not diminish the City’ s nor private utility providers’  rights to use the public easements for maintenance, repair and replacement of their utility facilities. Often private property owners deny the City’ s or the private utility provider’ s request for access to the easement by failing to remove the encroachment upon notice by the appropriate party that utility service is necessary. If the City or the private utility provider removes the encroachment then private property owner demands that the fence, accessory building or landscaping be restored at no cost to the property owner.  Additionally some private owners have denied access to private plumbers to fenced public utility easements on their lot to tap the sewer main and allow the abutting property owner to obtain sewer service. Additionally, property owners who choose to leave their utility easement area open and unfenced often do not maintain the utility easement on their lot and allow an overgrowth of vegetation, which also prevents access to the easement by the City or the private utility provider.  All of these actions have increased the costs either to the City or private utility provider to maintain, repair and restore services.

POLICY AND PROCEDURES:    

1.    To reduce the maintenance, repair and installation costs of utilities to all consumers, the City shall not restore nor pay any restoration or replacement costs for any encroachment placed upon a public utility easement or right-of-way that is removed after notice has been given to the property owner to remove the encroachment and grant access for utility service, except under the limited circumstances provided in Section 20-1-101, Lawton City Code, 2005.

2.    The City also encourages all private utility company service providers not to restore any encroachment nor pay any restoration costs after notice has been given to the property owners to remove the encroachment and grant access to the public easement or right-of-way for utility service.

3.    Notice for non-emergency service of utilities shall be at least 48 hours and be delivered in written form to the affected property owner.  (See Exhibit ___ for form letter)

4.    If the property owner fails to remove the encroachment after notice from the City or the private utility provider, the service provider shall remove the encroachment and complete the utility service.  The area excavated shall be filled or back-filled.  It shall be the property owner’ s responsibility to restore any fencing or landscaping. Additionally any accessory building in excess of 200 square feet in size removed from the public easement or right-of-way shall not be restored upon the easement or right-of-way unless the property owner obtains a revocable permit from the City Council prior to construction.  Accessory buildings less than 200 square feet in size may be restored by the owner after receiving a building permit prior to construction.  All restoration activities must be completed in accordance with an approved building permit and meet applicable standards for construction.  Upon presentation of a copy of the notice to remove the encroachment for utility service the cost of building permit shall be waived.  Under no circumstances shall restoration or replacement of a fence upon the public easement or right-of-way include any concrete footing or masonry/concrete foundation, unless authorized by the issuance of a revocable permit. (Exception to the removal requirement for irrigation systems located in a front easement or rights-of-way, see Section 20-1-101, Lawton City Code, 2005).

5.    If an abutting property owner denies an authorized contractor access to the public utility easement the contractor shall contact the License and Permit Center.  

The contractor shall provide the appropriate information on the utility service work to include the following at a minimum:

a.    Address and legal description of the property seeking access to public utility easement or right-of-way and description of the work to be completed;
b.    Address, legal description and owner of record from the Comanche County Clerk’ s office of the lot on which the encroachment prevents access to the public easement or right-of-way and
c.    Copy of valid building permit, which authorizes the utility service work.

6.    Failing to obtain a building permit by a property owner after notice to do so or if required a revocable permit to construct a fence, accessory building, or authorized improvement, which encroaches upon a public easement or right-of-way, will result in charges being filed in Municipal Court and a late charge being assessed against the property owner’ s building permit application. If a licensed contractor fails to obtain a building permit or if required a revocable permit to construct a fence, accessory building, or authorized improvement, which encroaches upon a public easement or right-of-way, charges will be filed in Municipal Court against the contractor. If the fence or accessory building constructed without a valid building permit does not meet the applicable code standards for permitting; the fence, accessory building or other encroachment shall be removed from the public utility easement at the owner’ s expense.
            
7.    It shall also be the official policy of the City that all property owners must maintain adjacent public utility easements or rights-of-way in a safe and sanitary condition.  All fences enclosing easements must be kept and structurally sound.  All vegetation on public utility easements or rights-of-ways must be trimmed so as to allow utility service at all times.  The property owner, upon notice by the City or the private utility providers, shall immediately abate any overgrowth of vegetation.

REFERENCES:    None

EXHIBIT:        Approved Construction Specifications for Public Utility
            Easements

EFFECTIVE DATE:    This policy becomes effective February 15, 2007.

RESPONSIBLE DEPARTMENT:    Community Services Department




_________________________________
JOHN P. PURCELL, JR., MAYOR



FORM LETTER

Form Letter to Property Owner from City, Public/Private Utility Company or Licensed Plumber to Remove Encroachment and Grant Access to the Public Utility Easement to Install, Repair or Replace Public Utilities
                    (Date)

Dear Property Owner:

The following is your official notice to remove (Description of Encroachment) located on the public utility easement of (Legal Description of Lot and Street Address) within (Specified Time Period) in order that the City, Public/Private Utility Company or licensed plumber may be granted access to the public right-of-way or utility easement for utility service.

     Section 20-1-101 of the Lawton City Code, 2005, provides that any encroachment upon a public right-of-way or easement regardless of the easement’s specified purpose, shall be prohibited except as authorized in this code. Upon verbal or written notice, the property owner shall remove the fence or grant access to the easement to the city or other legally authorized entities to maintain, repair or replace public or private utilities located or to be located in the public rights-of-way or easements. Any damages to fences, landscaping or any other structure encroaching upon the public rights-of-way or utility easements which are the result of maintaining, repairing or replacing public or private utilities shall be the responsibility of the property owner.  If the encroachment is an irrigation (lawn sprinkler) system located in the front yard of the property, you are only required to identify the location of the sprinkler system heads and piping by some marking such as a flag.  An irrigation system in the side or rear yard encroaching on an easement or rights-of-way shall be removed.  

Failure to remove the herein specified encroachment from the your public rights-of-way utility easement after this notice will result in the City, Public/Private Utility Company or authorized entity removing the encroachment to gain access to the public right-of-way or utility easement for service purposes.  The encroachment will not be restored or replaced.  The City, Public /Private Utility Company or authorized entity may seek to recover from you any additional costs related to removal of the encroachment. If you have questions regarding this notice, please call (phone number).


______________________
License and Permits Center
______________________
Public Works Department


(5-3, Amended, 02/17/2007, Prior Text; 5-3, Added, 04/27/2005)