Highway Superintendent warns of fixed structures in right of way
Highway Superintendent Fred Piasecki recently returned from a legal panel as part of the Cornell Local Roads Program Highway School where there was a growing concern about fixed structures in municipal rights of way.
Piasecki said the right of way is from the edge of the road or concrete gutter back 10 to 15 feet onto a property, depending on the width of the road.
“You can’t have fixed structures in the right of way because if somebody would come by and hit that, there becomes a problem there’s damage or injury as to who’s going to be paid for that,” Piasecki said.
Piasecki said the issue that’s begun to arise involves people encasing their mailboxes in brick or stone.
“A standard mailbox on a post, if somebody hits that, it should snap and break away,” he said. “There might be some damage, but for the most part that’s minor.
“Should there be any kind of accident where you have some severe damage to a vehicle or occupants, what’s going to happen is the homeowner’s going to get sued and what’s also happening is the town or municipality is getting brought into the suit by allowing fixed structures in the right of way,” he said.
Town Attorney John Bailey said the county and state have ordinances in place that prohibit fixed structures in the right of way.
Piasecki added that large boulder rocks in the right of way were also discussed.
The fixed structures could cause issues for the department during the winter months, with Piasecki saying the fixed structure could do damage to the wing of a plow.
Piasecki said this could involve the homeowner having to reimburse the town for the damage to the plow.
While seeing no major issues in the town, Piasecki did say the issue has been a talking point for highway superintendents around the area.
“Though it may esthetically look nice ... these can be very dangerous,” he said. “Unfortunately if something occurs, [the homeowner] is going to be liable, and depending on what happens, you could be paying a lot for your esthetic-looking fixed-structure mailbox because it got hit by a car and there was some severe damage, or God forbid, if there was any kind of fatality.”