Measuring property boundaries

My wife and I quietly celebrated with a high five, a hug and a kiss. We'd paid off our 30-year mortgage two years early, and we smiled contentedly.

We also recognized that our hodge-podge of fences surrounding our lot needed replacement. Over past decades previous owners had installed six different models, which made our home look like a Nevada dude ranch gone wild.

Seeing as we now owned our property, a decision was made to have the lot properly surveyed-I wanted not only to know accurately what I own but to make certain I place the new fence on a surveyed line.

I had no idea what the cost might be for a professional survey. Calls made to several companies listed in the Yellow Pages soon educated me-it costs a lot! But what the heck, it had to be done, or else I'd be guessing where the real property boundaries are located. It just made good common sense.

After analyzing several proposals, a company was hired and the lot surveyed. I enjoyed watching the two-man team work their tripods, lasers and reflectors. The four corners of my lot were located and permanent markers staked into the earth.

As I suspected, the old fences were not quite on the line. However, my vinyl, maintenance-free fence will be placed with care on the newly validated borders. But I also learned that the boundaries for the front and back yard of my home on 35th Avenue West are offset from what everyone on the block has been using as their property line, which implies that every home on my street is in potential jeopardy from the city.

Piedmont Street is my "alley," as it is for all folks living on 35th West. The survey team leader said we are all off by four feet in the back and three feet in the front. I asked him what that meant. He replied: "Nothing, really. If the city has left you all alone for these past 28 years, they are not about to bother you now."

When I talked with the owners of the properties adjacent mine, one of them offered confidently that "after seven years, if a taxpayer pays the property taxes as required, then the city can't do a thing about it." He's a civil engineer and has had experience with similar issues, so I tend to believe him.

I wanted to tell this story because I now suspect that many Magnolia properties must be similarly distorted. I learned from a call to a city official who said "the problem stems from 100 years ago, when Seattle was actually owned by only a few land barons who either sold large parcels to developers or gave them to other parties. Once the city was officially organized, the streets were platted out first, and the homes' lots came afterwards and were simply drawn out on paper, and not every lot was 'staked' with four corners.

"Thus," he continued, "after decades of homes being bought, sold, resold, upgraded, earthquakes and other reasons, the official 5,000-square-foot lot could be less or greater."

Another somewhat related issue came to my attention at this time, prompted by the insidious explosion of second-floor additions to nearby homes. The noises didn't bother me, nor did the increase in property values precipitated by these larger homes.

It was the tremendous increase of cars, trucks, campers and other building trade vehicles parking on the streets. The rub came when they'd block my driveway entrance, making it an irritant and a danger to me when trying to exit.

The city has laws on the books to handle such a situation, and I thought I should pass this piece of trivia along to you, also, dear reader. Any homeowner has the right to paint the curbs on both sides of their driveway. The law says to use yellow paint for the top of the curb. Five feet is allowed on either side, which gives ample warning for public parking and sufficient clearance to enter and exit a driveway.

Furthermore, if you are issued a "blue disability placard or have disabled plates on your vehicle," the city's ordinances allow you to have a posted sign in your front yard.

The contact person for such issues is Ken Wong at 684-5104. The city will install the sign and paint the curb white. This does not, however, reserve the space for the homeowner specifically, because any person having a disability permit may use the space.

I hope that my experience with these common homeowner matters will prove the maxim that "good fences make good neighbors."

Bernie Sadowski is a longtime resident of Magnolia. He can be reached at[[In-content Ad]]