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Utility Futility

The thing about owning a piece of land of your own is that, where your land ends someone else's begins, and that often invisible boundary can be the cause of many a headache.  They say that good fences make for good neighbours, but if you build that fence without consulting your neighbour, or worse, build it even inches on the wrong side of that property line, you may have started a feud that will last for generations to come.

In our particular case, the neighbour in question is so universally reviled by all of property owners around him that I wouldn't be surprised if he slept with one eye open.  This individual bulldozed the majority of the trees on his property (as well as a few on the edges of neighbouring properties) and carted in tons of dirt to raise the level of his land (causing run-off problems and septic system overflow for at least one neighbour).  Why?  Because "I can't see the lake from my dinner table", that's why.  All of this landscaping was frightfully illegal, of course, but the municipality simple fined him and had him make some corrections to the shoreline and replant some tress, but he got away with it. 

In addition to his reprehensible violation of the environment, he also decided that the telephone and power lines servicing both our cottage and that of another neighbour were obstructing his view.  He did actually have a case, since the utilities had never actually obtained written permission to put the lines across his land.  That didn't stop him from repeatedly illegally cutting said lines when things weren't moving fast enough for his taste.  The phone and electricity companies moved quickly to chart an alternate route for the lines across our property, and quickly sought our permission and signatures to place the lines on our property.  That's when I dug in my heels.

The document that they sent me essentially called on my to surrender any rights to the land that they wanted the right-of-way for.  I'd still own it, technically, but they would control it in perpetuity, adding or removing anything they liked, for any purpose or reason whatsoever.  I'm pretty sure that, based on the contents of that document, that they would be able to open a fully functional salmon cannery on our property if they so desired (not that out lake has any salmon in it...).  Need less to say, I was dumbfounded that they'd even send such a document out, never mind expect it to be signed.

It turns out that this contract was basically a form letter that the utilities start with, in the hoped of gaining as much control as they can of the land that their lines will pass over as possible.  They are, however, perfectly amenable to modifying this document, given that their alternative is to drag you into court to force you to sign it, and that costs money.  So we were able to remove all the offensive clauses ("destroy or remove any structure on said land?") and ominous stipulations ("the right to add any equipment") that sent a chill down my spine.

I still think that I may have given up more than I had to, but I did manage to mitigate most of the potential damage...I hope.

Watch what you sign,



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