City right-of-way issue

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  #1  
Old 03-15-10, 08:15 AM
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City right-of-way issue

I'm waiting for a call-back from the city to get their view of this, but thought I would see what someone else thinks.

Here's the issue:

Got a call to pick up a disabled vehicle this morning. It was just off the roadway between the road edge and sidewalk on a main two-lane residential thoroughfare. As I approached I noted two people standing on the sidewalk a short distance away. I thought they were just a couple of neighborhood residents since I had had to pick up the keys from the repair shop. Turns out one of the people was the vehicle owner. Anyway I set up for the tow and began backing up to the vehicle when one fo the guys starts waving his arms telling me to stop. I got out of the truck and he said, "Hey, what are you doing, you just ran over one of my sprinkler heads!". I looked down and, after looking closely in the grass, sure enough there was a broken sprinkler head (it was not readily visible; you almost had to be looking for it, and the others, to spot it). A short discussion ensued wherein I expressed the opinion that I didn't think his sprinkler system belonged in the city right of way - it was about 3' from the road edge about midway between the road and the sidewalk. His side was he's had sprinklers installed like that "all over the place" and how did I think the grass there stayed so nice, etc, etc. Now (and I'm waiting for the call from city Road & Drainage for their take) this was clearly in the city right of way which is 25' from the roadway center line. The sidewalk would be in this right-of-way. I finished hooking up and got back in my truck when he said, "What about my sprinkler?". I declined any further discussion.

Opinions?

Incidentally, the vehicle owner followed me to the repair shop and expressed the opinion that the guy was wrong. He mentioned that when his vehicle had died the homeowner had walked out before he had hardly even finished coasting to a stop.
 
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  #2  
Old 03-15-10, 08:52 AM
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I'm pretty sure I'm right about this. Sidewalks are actually owned by the city or county and it's just the homeowners job to maintain them. Since the homeowner doesn't actually own it, they would first need permission to install the sprinklers there, which would probably be denied anyway. So, this guy is probably going to get in trouble now for having installed them there in the first place (serves him right, ha-ha). Also, seems the city is the legal owner and this guy's gonna get no where.
 
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Old 03-15-10, 09:00 AM
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Okay, just heard back from the city and didn't get much light shed on the subject. The utilities customer service gal forwarded me to another guy for a better answer than she could provide, but before that she did say that if a city vehicle had done it they wouldn't do anything about it. I figured that already after doing a Google search for related info and discovered that many jurisdictions require a waiver of liability for any sprinklers on city property. The city here, after talking to the other road & drainage guy, apparently does not currently have a solid policy on the matter and said that issue was "being worked on right now". He suggested I next call the code department, but I'm not going to research it any further. Bottom line apparently is that it is probably legal for it to be there; whether it's a smart place to stick sprinkler heads is another matter. I'm surprised I was the first to run over one (if i was) and suspect I won't be the last.

I love google Earth; if you want to see the location described it's at 27 deg 02' 06.66"N, 82 deg 12' 08.65"W.

Interesting discovery: When I brought that up on Google Earth the first thing I noticed was the green, green grass (in a March 2008 image). We've been under once a week watering restrictions for years, so the only way to get grass that green in March is to water more than the allowed once a week.
 

Last edited by the_tow_guy; 03-15-10 at 09:16 AM.
  #4  
Old 03-15-10, 11:51 PM
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it sounds like a setup. It might have been broken before that and he's trying to scam you or the car owner sense you said you can't see it without actully looking for it.
 
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Old 03-16-10, 04:32 AM
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Yeah, that crossed my mind, but if so he could have been trying it on the vehicle owner instead of standing there gabbing. Not going to sweat it.
 
  #6  
Old 03-17-10, 10:51 AM
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Where I'm at, its very common for homeowners to install underground lawn sprinklers on the city's right-of-way portion of the residential lot. If the property has a sidewalk with a strip of grass between it and the street, sprinklers are customarily installed in that area to water it. If there is no sidewalk, most sprinkler installers install sprinkler heads next to the curb, aimed to spray inwards on the lawns. No one would even consider it necessary to ask the city permission to install on the right-of-way.

That being said, if there is any damage to the sprinkler system on the city's portion of the right of way, the city would not be liable for repairs, although many communities around here would make those repairs to keep peace if the damage was caused by a city employee or vehicle.
 
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Old 03-17-10, 01:10 PM
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In this case, no curb of any kind; asphalt abuts grass. If it was ME and I really, really wanted to water that strip I would have installed the heads up next to the sidewalk with the spray pattern directed into the strip, not in the middle of the strip where anyone (FEDEX, UPS, letter carrier, diabled car, u-turn-er) might run over it. If he just replaces it, it is GOING to get broken again; just a matter of time.
 
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Old 03-17-10, 10:40 PM
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i tryed using bing maps for the location but it didn't work.
 
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Old 04-09-10, 01:19 PM
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Interesting issue.

My limited understanding of tort law suggests that there is liability only only if someone is negligent ---- if they weren't acting as a reasonable and prudent person would.

Since there was no sidewalk or curb and this was on the public right of way, I might suggest that it was reasonable to drive and park on the right of way without inspecting it for barely visible sprinkler heads.

That seems to be your basic line of reasoning in the opening post.


If it's a well maintained yard at that point you might get less mileage from that line of argument ---- the circumstances might be quite important.

Another issue might be whether the homeowner can sue you when he doesn't own the property. If no permit is available, or he didn't get a permit, he might be out of luck.

I might offer the guy $20 for the cost of a new sprinkler head in exchange for a written release of liability.
 
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