Roads and Views: I got mine, why should I give you one?

I have been writing about private roads and easements for years. In a state with no land-use planning prior to the past few years, with free-for-all land settlement and land sale practices, figuring out who has the right to cross someone else’s land to get to his or her paradise gets hot real fast. And figuring out who has the right to cross that paradise to get to someone else’s paradise gets even hotter.

These disputes often require expensive participation by lawyers. While I like making a good living, I wish that many cases could be resolved without huge expense. Sometimes I help someone obtain access, and sometimes I help someone push that burden off on somebody else. These cases typically involve a mix of topography, necessity, aesthetics and emotion, frequently a lot of emotion.

To escape stress and emotional disputes, I take a holiday trundling off to our little one-acre retreat in Montana, seeking diversion and relaxation.

Not for long. Here comes New Neighbor, who hired a surveyor to prove that the front third of our parking lot and the back third of the two outhouses are on his land. Those conclusions are an interesting mix of good and bad news. I would think, in the universe of facts supporting claims for adverse possession, that using another’s land for human waste disposal for 40 years is about as hostile and adverse a use as anyone could imagine. Sorting out these boundary issues could be interesting, but the worst thing is about to come: he wants to bulldoze a huge road through his land along our fence line to get from the county road to his back lot. The road would be on his land, beyond my control.

The five big windows in our old schoolhouse afford a view of the trees on his land, less than fifty yards away. Building a road will convert our private view out into a very public view into the schoolhouse. We will have to buy curtains.

What about our views? Our privacy? Our outhouse?

My partners ask: are there no rights? Is there no fairness?

These inquiries are largely irrelevant to the legal analysis of his rights. But maybe they will appeal to his personal mix of ethics and neighborliness. I wrote a nice letter; we will see.

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  1. SO, RT……Did you go to sleep this week, miss your deadline or end up spending too many hours in court. Missing your column. Bill