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City corner column: Who owns easements?

Nov. 28, 2010 at 5:28 a.m.


By O.C. Garza

I am confused about easements. Who owns easements?

Every easement is unique and can have very specific restrictions, but the answer below applies to most easements within the city limit.

Easements are for the public good, and every neighborhood benefits from them. Easements are typically granted by the developer of a subdivision to allow companies to provide electrical power, cable TV, telephone and sometimes Internet services. Easements also allow a municipality to install water and sewer service, and in some cases storm sewers for a subdivision. It goes without saying that without easements we would not have any of the creature comforts we have become accustomed to.

For most easements, the city does not own the easement property; the property owner does. All the city has is an easement to put water and sewer lines under your property and to restrict what goes on top of those lines in case they need to be repaired. We maintain those underground lines, but the property owner has to maintain their property above the ground.

It is rare, but sometimes the city has to buy actual property for a big infrastructure project. The Sam Houston Street Reconstruction Project is a good example. We had to buy 54 parcels of land to widen Sam Houston Street. These parcels were not just easements for underground utilities; these were purchases of true land that affect a property owner's boundary lines. We try to avoid purchasing real property whenever possible, but to widen Sam Houston Street it could not be avoided.

Transactions like Sam Houston are rare. Most city easements are granted to allow us to run underground utilities, in these cases we do not own the property, the landowner does.

I had an emergency at my home and the EMS responded professionally and was a great help to me and my family. Is there a way I can let them know how much I appreciated their professionalism?

Our EMS and fire department actively seeks feedback on how they are serving the public and there are several ways to let them know. Most "customers" receive a customer service survey from EMS or fire department when they respond to 9-1-1 calls. The fire department also keeps a customer service online survey form on its website for anyone who has contact with any department within the fire department including EMS, the fire marshal's office, or the life safety division. This type of feedback is used for the department's quality assurance program and its strategic planning process. The survey is six easy questions and a box for additional comments. It only takes a minute or two to fill it out. That survey is available at the fire department home page at: www.victoriatx.org/fire/index.asp, just click on the "Fire Department Customer Service Survey" link. Another way to send your feedback is to write a short letter to the fire chief or city manager at P.O. Box 1758, Victoria, Texas 77902-1758.

I am considering building a small home or placing a manufactured home in Victoria. Is there a guide to the development steps I must follow?

Yes. The City Development Center has a 15-page building guide that explains the permit process, inspection schedules and other building steps required to meet building codes. Most home builders and contractors are familiar with those steps. The building guide booklet also has a section on manufactured housing for placement on either private property or in a mobile home park. To get a copy of the Victoria Building Guide, call the development center at 361-485-3320.

Send your questions and comments for any city department or activity to City of Victoria, Public Information Office, P.O. Box 1758, Victoria, TX 77902, or pio@victoriatx.org.

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