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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission: No fences in rights of way without permit

Updated: Jun 9, 2022

The Linn County Commission on Monday discussed forcing owners who want to build new fencing in rights of way to get a permit. (Unsplash stock photo)

MOUND CITY – On Monday, June 6, County Counselor Gary Thompson and the Linn County Commissioners discussed utility poles that had been installed in the county right of way. The commission decided the poles needed to be moved and that any utilities or residents wanting to put something in the county right of way needed to apply for a permit.

The utility poles on the county line road west of Blue Mound were for a new residence and had been reported to Commission Chair Jim Johnson as they were being installed.

Thompson told the commissioners that they had to make a decision so the installation could be completed. The county stopped Evergy from installing the poles, but in that process it was determined that a high-dollar pipe fence was also in the right of way.

Thompson said that on one hand the county had always taken the position that utility poles are not supposed to be on the county’s right of way. He said the county made companies move those poles before. On the other hand, he said he did not think it was reasonable to have them move the utility poles and not make the landowner move the fence.

Basically, it is the same argument that it is an obstruction, said Thompson.

Commissioner Danny McCullough said he did not think there should be anything in the right of way and they both should be moved.

Thompson said he knows of other places where this same situation exists and the county never deals with it until it comes to their attention.

Commissioner Rick James said because of this situation coming to the commission’s attention, there will be other landowners calling and reporting other situations.

Thompson pointed out that this was not the same thing as a barbed wire fence along the right of way. He said running your car into a barbed wire fence is not as dangerous as running into a pipe fence.

Commission Chair Jim Johnson said the way it is now the county could not even clean the ditch out. He said he thought that the poles needed to be moved.

Setting the fence aside, Thompson said, the power company is wanting to know if they need to move the poles or not.

James said yes they do.

If we insist that the company goes off our right of way, they will have to work out an easement with the property owner, said Thompson.

“Is there a way to prevent this in the future,” asked James.

Thompson said they are supposed to get a permit. The county’s position is that any construction in the county right of way has to be permitted.

Apparently Evergy’s construction supervisor wasn’t aware of the need for a permit.

Johnson said if we start moving fences there are going to be so many fences we have to move.

Thompson summarized that the commissioners said that the poles have to go and the commissioners can think about the fence situation.

Johnson asked what could be done about fences in the future.

Thompson said that people are required to get a permit before building a fence that is in the right of way.

“The burden is on the landowner to know where the right of way is,” said Thompson. “It really is.”

Johnson asked how the right of way was determined.

Thompson said it had been done with a survey before but most of the time it is just go to the center of the road and measure from there. Typically we just visually locate the center of the actual road and if it is a 60 foot right of way, we measure over thirty feet and if a 70 foot we measure 35 feet. For most people that is a satisfactory way of determining where the right of way is.

Johnson said the reason he was called was that the person complained that the ditch would not be able to be cleaned out because of the new construction.

Thompson said he would send Evergy and Heartland a copy of the county’s regulations about rights of way.

The position the county has taken in the past is that if a fence has been in right of way and there is no good reason it has to be moved, it is left alone, Thompson said. But if the landowner tears that down and is going to build a new fence, the county wants them to move it out of the right of way.

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