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Thread: Questions about setbacks

  1. #1
    Member nooksack's Avatar
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    Default Questions about setbacks

    If access to your property is through a setback what is legal as far as cutting or grading for moving material to a site? Also on a river as the bank erodes the setback is maintained and moves back into the property correct?

  2. #2

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    I think that a lot of that depends where the property is located. I think that the setback is set once and is not a moving target. There is a area set aside on my remote property for access past my property and if that went away with the river I don't think that I would be required to give up any more property.

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    I am not sure if all of your terms are properly stated. There are a number of types of setbacks. If the setback is a staking setback, that means that the nearby property was required to be a certain distance from the stream when it was staked. However, those property corners exist in planar space, and remain valid as the riverbank erodes. The strip of public land between the property and the river will shrink as the bank erodes, eventually there may be no public land between the river and the property, in which case you will lose your access.

    A better situation for you would be an access easement that is defined on the plat as being "50 feet inland from the mean high water mark of the west bank of Such-and-such River. Such an easement may be on private property and will move with the moving riverbank, so that you maintain your access.

    Regarding what cutting or grading can be done to maintain access, it's complicated. Streams also sometimes have setbacks that prevent certain activities that will encourage erosion, so you might have some limitations regarding what digging you can do from that perspective. Trail maintenance is generally allowed on all access easements, whether they cross public or private land, however if the trail is on private land items such as trees on that land belong to the land owner. You can't cut down a big spruce tree to make a bridge without the land-owners permission.

    A set-back suggests that it is public land, which often means that allowable uses are broad and oversight is small. If the setback is unreserved state land I would not hesitate to cut down trees to build bridges and such.

    If you find the relevant plat (available on-line) the plat notes will probably help you figure out what is going on. You could PM me if you want help finding or interpreting the plat.

  4. #4
    Member nooksack's Avatar
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    Thanks to HikerDan I my questions are answered through a pm with the plat. The setback does not move with erosion like I thought. Glad to be wrong on that. Also OK to clear a 5' wide path from the river to the parcel.
    Thank you Dan.

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