Easements and Rights-of-Way
Easements and rights-of-way are very different things.
An easement is permission to use an area of land. The property owner retains ownership of the area covered by the easement. Easements "run with the land" - that is, they automatically continue in force when the land is sold. If a previous owner of your property granted an easement, you are bound by that easement the same as if you granted it yourself. There are many types of easements, but the most common are:
- Utility or Public Utility. These may be used by any utility company.
- Telephone and Electric (sometimes abbreviated as T&E.) These may be used only by electric, telephone, cable TV, and other telecommunications utilities.
- Water or Sewer. These may be used only by water or sewer utilities (AWWU or a private utility.)
- Public access or public use. These allow the Municipality or the State to construct roads in the area.
- Section line. These are public access easements that were reserved when the land was originally surveyed by the government.
- BLM. The Bureau of Land Management created road reservations when it subdivided the "small tracts" common in south Anchorage and Eagle River/Chugiak.
Easements are usually granted when property is subdivided and are shown on the plat. They may also be granted by document and recorded at the District Recorder's office. You can search the Recorder's database for documents recorded since 1972.
Any structure, retaining wall or fence located in an easement should have by a "letter of non-objection" from all utilities allowed to use that easement. Each utility has an easement or right-of-way section that issues these letters. The Municipality has jurisdiction over utility, public utility, public access, public use, section line, and drainage easements. Any structure, retaining wall or fence located in these easements must have an encroachment permit from the Right-of-Way Division (located in the permit center at 4700 South Bragaw.)
A right-of-way is a matter of ownership. The Municipality owns all municipal streets and alleys. Rights-of-way are typically dedicated to the public when property is subdivided, and are shown on the plat. The right-of-way exists even if no roadway is ever constructed. Since it is dedicated to the public, no individual may claim exclusive use or possession of a right-of-way.
Easements and rights-of-way that are not needed may be vacated by a platting action. The vacated area is returned to the parcel of land from which it was originally dedicated.