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Dear PoPville – Light Pole Blocking Access to Property – Who Should We Contact?

by Prince Of Petworth April 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm 43 Comments

Dear PoPville,

We recently bought a place in the H street area, and have a problem with a light pole blocking access to our backyard. The alley light pole is located directly behind our house and prevents us from fully opening our back gate to achieve full access to the rear of our property. We cannot use the area for parking or to stage any sort of construction materials, for future repairs or upgrades to our property. Development in the area has picked up rapidly in the past year and street parking has become very limited, prompting our desire to utilize the space and lessen the burden on the already limited street parking in the neighborhood.

The alley light pole is DC Department of Transportation (DCDOT) property and they have agreed to allow for the relocation of the pole, but are unwilling to share in the financial responsibility of the process. As this is a public space obstruction to our private property, do you or your readers believe the financial burden for relocation of the pole remains with the DCDOT, or with us as the property owners?

We had been working with DDOT to try and reconcile this issue, but they recently sent us a letter that formally denied our petition. We’ve considered contacting our councilmember (Tommy Wells), but do you have any recommendations for who to contact, or how to deal with this issue?

We offered to agree to some compromise on financial burden and even suggested programs for DCDOT to budget for the poles relocation (replace the pole under the Districts LED alley light pole project). We believe that the pole is in such a state of disrepair that DCDOT is using this opportunity to force a district homeowner to shoulder the financial burden of replacing a piece of their failing infrastructure.

While we were obviously aware of the problem when we bought the place, nothing in the property deed mentioned the allowance of a negative easement. We made the assumption that we could work with the city to deal with it, either through joint funding or, at the very least, a payment plan. What ended up happening is that they (DCDOT) were very responsive and got someone out there right away to look at it, never mentioned costs, and at the point of scheduling the move (for the next day) informed us that it would cost us $12,000. They never gave us the opportunity to get private estimates. We submitted a letter challenging the cost, which was then transferred to their legal department where it sat for 9 months and then they finally denied our petition.

Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

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