Value of a "Temporary Construction Easement"?

kirkhallFebruary 13, 2013

I am not sure where to post this question, so I am starting here.

The 3.5ac right behind my house is being developed into an 18 home development. We live the greater Seattle area.

We are the corner lot at the entrance/side of this new development (so my entire back fenceline is adjacent to the soon to be developed property.

Today, the developer came over and asked for a "Temporary construction easement" that will "not ever convey". He said they need to dig into our backyard--the last 15 feet or so, most of the length--in order to have an okay slope to protect the workers/construction of a huge underground water vault (120'x80') that will be going in for water retention for these 18 homes. He said they'll put my fence back/put up new, do landscaping in the backyard, and usually "some money exchanges hands for this sort of thing" after the vault has been constructed. They will also pay our attorney fees for an attorney of our choosing to look over the easement, etc.

In my head, I would like for them to put in a rockery/retaining wall on the edge of my property that is a "drop off" to the sidewalk below, and will be "frontage" along the road that their new development comes off. He seemed amenable to that (it is really hard to maintain. Almost straight up and down, dirt/clay with grass that can't be mowed because of the steepness, so we go out there with a weed-whacker regularly until our battery dies). Cleaning up this slope, with rockery, would probably be good for the looks of their development too.

But, my spouse isn't convinced that the rockery actually adds much value for us, and wonders if we should ask for cash instead. I'm thinking they can do the rockery for much less than we can, due to them already having the huge equipment here to dig out that huge for them, the expense isn't as great as it would be for us to put in the rockery ourselves.

But, really, what is an easement like this worth?

And, any advice from those out there about Temporary easements, in general?

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I would start by asking for the rocks and some cash. negotiate from there. I do not know what kind of value would be apprpriate though.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 6:41PM
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Is the vault going to be running under this easement or is it just for construction? I'd decide what the minimum is that you want out of it and then star negotiating with an higher value, cash and rocks. Also make sure everything is clearly spelled out with a plan on how you want it to look.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 9:52PM
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I'd ask for the rockery/retaining wall, landscaping of it, and a couple thousand dollars for the inconvenience. And ask them to make restoring your back yard happen immediately after they bury the tanks ... get it all in writing and looked at by the lawyer.

This cold be a win-win solution: you get rid of the slope and get an easier to maintain yard, they get faster and safer construction.

Don't get greedy - there are ways they can make that excavation happen without using your back yard, but they will be noisier and last longer.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 9:02AM
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I would want to get an independent soils engineer's input as to the best method of restoration. Retention walls have a habit of failing, sometimes in a startlingly short time.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 10:17AM
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Sounds more like the 'benching' required for below grade construction.

Holes deeper than X feet (set by OSHA) must be dug in stages based on soil type.

They look like huge stair-steps to prevent the unrestrained earth from slumping into the hole.

Once the work is completed it is all back-filled.

Gravel back-fill has less of a problem of subsiding if installed correctly than using the original earth (it must be replaced and compacted in relatively small 'lifts' to not subside excessively).

Make sure you get a bond from a third party to restore your land (in case they fail before finishing the job) and detailed requirements for restoration.

VERY detailed.
Type of ground cover, species of grass, shrubs, trees, etc.
Size of trees (trunk diameter at 5 feet above the ground, not just height).

An actual landscaping drawing showing what and where should be part of the contract.

'Damage' payments for you inability to have use of the area should be included.

You might ask around about the cost of renting vacant land in your area.

This post was edited by brickeyee on Thu, Feb 14, 13 at 10:55

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 10:48AM
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My reaction would be "ACK! NO NO NO"!

There's an awful lot of room for you to end up very unhappy.

At the very very very least, get an attorney with experience in this kind of thing to help protect you.

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 11:20AM
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Oh, the variety of responses... They kind of reflect what is going through my mind--the Ack!; inconvenience; something out of it; not too much; etc.

As many of you know, my house is undergoing a significant remodel. So, I also asked my contractor about it (my remodel is going very well, and my contractor is very good). He right away gave me the name and number of his Real Estate Attorney. So, I will probably meet with him for a consult to start.

The developer is coming back next week sometime, and I think I will keep my mouth mostly closed and see what they are thinking. I think we need more details from them (some of which I am not sure they have yet--soil type/depth info from the soils engineer to know how far into our yard they will need to come...)--I'm wondering the specifics of how much of my yard will be disturbed (what will they do with all the dirt they grade/step out until backfill for example); and also what season they plan to do with work. If in Summer, that would be a huge bummer, as that is the only time of year I can really send my kids out there to play (Seattle isn't well known for dry seasons, except summer)...

There are also 2 trees, in particular, I'd really like to save-- a nice native cherry, and a sizable (but not HUGE, like a couple others that are coming down on the property to be developed) cedar. He thought those could be saved. Time will tell, I guess.

I'm open to other thoughts, suggestions. Thank you!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 1:01PM
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If you have trees that you don't want damage to, you will need to take into account their root system and that heavy machinery won't run over that. They would need to be blocked off around the leaf perimeter and a bit further to be safer. Trees can also take a few years before they show signs of distress.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 1:44PM
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Talk to the attorney and get EVERYTHING in writing. Verbal communication means nothing. Also make sure the developer has insurance to protect anyone working on your property. In fact talk to your homeowner's agent along with the attorney. Expect the worst, and hope for the best.
Good luck

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 4:41PM
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