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Leasing out land under power lines?  RSS feed

 
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Hey Everyone,

I was poking around looking at land for sale and found something that peaked my interest. I came across a 10 acre parcel that I may be able to purchase. It is reasonably level and could be used for limited agriculture. The down side is that it has power transmission lines that cross it.

The parcel is located 15 minutes from I-5 about 25 miles North of Seattle.

I checked with the power company and found that they have an easement that covers a good portion of the parcel. However, I can use the land use the land under the power lines for agriculture and "temporary" structures.

There is enough space away from the power lines for a couple of modest shelters.

Do you all think that gardening under the power lines is a problem?

If not, do you think it would be viable to offer a couple of 2 acre plots for lease to others in this community? Would $250 a month for a 2 acre plot be reasonable? How about if I had in place LIMITED community rainwater catchment and power?

Thanks

Steve
 
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Around here, the going rental rate for agricultural property is negative... By that I mean that people pretty much have to pay to have a farmer take care of it for them. There is so much land that is a burden to the property owner. They wish someone/anyone would take care of it for them to relieve them of the burden. I turn down offers every year to take care of more rent-free land. Before I realized that the true rental cost of agricultural land in this area is zero, I was paying about $40 per acre per year. My grandmother for her land that I didn't farm was collecting about $50 per acre per year.
 
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I wouldn't site your house under power lines. There are books on the topic, like "Zapped". It's an issue. How big? I don't know.
John S
PDX OR
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Does the power company pay a royalty for the easement? Is it enough to cover the property taxes?
 
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Steve Smyth wrote:Do you all think that gardening under the power lines is a problem?



Steve, We have power lines running across two different portions of our property because though we have 75 rather remote acres adjacent to a national forest, we happen to be between two rural highways. The lines run along the roads, but they occasionally have to cross from one side to the other to reach some of the more remote homes off either road. We just happened to be unlucky enough to be on a 90 degree turn in one highway so instead of following the road, they placed the lines diagonally across our land -- the longer one cutting right across through the national forest and all the way to the other highway a couple of miles away. It runs east-west across our south-facing hill, so we have to look at it from our house on the opposite hill (which we hate), but it makes parts of that hill somewhat prone to erosion. Fortunately, it is only a two-line power cut with ordinary pine poles, so when everything is green and growing in summer, it doesn't stand out much. The erosion is caused by the trucks they use when servicing the lines on a rocky hillside. They are not very careful!

At first, I was really concerned about the longer cut because it had just been cleared by the utility company when we bought the place, and it looked butchered. They had rolled in one of those monster saw trucks they use to brutally hack off any overhanging limbs, so all the poor trees on either side of the 50' wide swath they claim for their easement looked horribly mutilated and ragged. I also noted that on some nearby properties we had passed, there were other large trucks out chipping the debris and spraying herbicides all along the path after the saw truck went through. Seeing that and realizing that it might be only a matter of days before those trucks reached our land, we got on the phone to the utility company and had their chipping and spraying crews called off. As environmentalists, wildlife advocates and organic gardeners, the last thing we wanted on our land was a giant shredding machine killing every lizard, snake, rabbit or bird that may have sought shelter in those brush piles, OR a tankful of herbicide all over everything. Since then, we have a standing order that no chippers or sprays are allowed -- EVER! The crews come in about every 10 years to hack off branches and cut saplings down in the power cut, (we can't stop that, unfortunately) but now they pile the debris along the edges for us (making good cover for wildlife) and they never spray anything in our area.

Anyway, after being here 24 years, I have a slightly different take on power cuts than I used to. I've noticed that aside from the once a decade brutality to the trees, the opening is actually rather good for wild things. Much of our surrounding land is woodland, so it has a lot of shade. In the cut, there is a lot of sun. As usual in places that get a lot of sun and receive protection from the wind due to the banks of trees on both sides, they grow a huge variety of native grasses and herbaceous perennials -- many not found anywhere else on our property. This draws wild animals to the area like magnets. The deer bed down in the deep grass and browse on the young saplings and shrubs that pop up. Rabbits, voles and wood rats also like the grass with the adjacent brush piles for escape. Turkey vultures benefit from the masses of warm air rising above the warm strip. We have quail and turkeys moving in and out of the area -- which attracts foxes, skunks and an occasional bobcat. Since it cuts through a rural area with a human population but connects directly to the national forest, it really makes a great wildlife corridor!

There are some REAL down sides, however. In the first place those massive trucks -- even though they come through so rarely -- are very heavy and they compact soil and break up rock ledges, tumble boulders and crush dens, eggs, rare plants, etc. indiscriminately. The crews also sometimes leave their trash when they work on the lines. (I've had some pretty heated "discussions" with the power company over that!)

Another down side is that people tend to think that power cuts are public property. We have had a lot of trespassers -- walking, riding ATVs and even riding horses across taking a shortcut to the forest. I wouldn't mind that so much except that they tend to break bottles, leave trash and graffiti on the rocks and pick the wildflowers. (One day I found a stand of a particularly beautiful and rare wildflower growing in a little pocket in some rocks -- somehow miraculously missed by the tires of the giant machinery. The next day I took my husband up to see them and found the entire bunch picked to the ground by kids who passed through between my visits to the spot. We found shoe tracks, pop cans and a lot of graffiti as well. It was so disheartening to have found such a gem only to lose it before I could even collect seeds.) We also get a lot of hunters crossing over, and sometimes shooting animals on our property on their way! Since we consider our land a kind of animal sanctuary and do not allow hunting, that really pisses me off. We've put up no trespassing signs only to find them shot full of holes or run over by ATVs. It is getting better though since I have taken to patrolling it with my pack of 9 dogs on a regular basis.

So ... to finally answer your question ...
YES, you can garden in a power cut, but look out for compacted soil, people and animals coming through, potential herbicide and other chemical residues in your soil and crews with heavy machinery suddenly showing up to drive through without notice.
 
Deb Stephens
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Does the power company pay a royalty for the easement? Is it enough to cover the property taxes?



Joseph,
I've never heard of a power company paying a royalty for an easement. Is that actually done? I would love to have them pay for ours -- they certainly ruin enough of the land when they use it!!!
 
Steve Smyth
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Around here, the going rental rate for agricultural property is negative... By that I mean that people pretty much have to pay to have a farmer take care of it for them. There is so much land that is a burden to the property owner. They wish someone/anyone would take care of it for them to relieve them of the burden. I turn down offers every year to take care of more rent-free land. Before I realized that the true rental cost of agricultural land in this area is zero, I was paying about $40 per acre per year. My grandmother for her land that I didn't farm was collecting about $50 per acre per year.



Hey Joseph,

While we do have some amount of agriculture in this area and development is gradually shrinking the amount of ag land in the area. I suspect that land prices are significantly higher here. Typical 5 acre lots are selling for $90k to $200k.I am not talking about leasing a large tract of farmland. Instead a 2 acre (or so) plot with a place to park a tiny home and produce their own food. I have only seen one instance of renting lots in my area. There are several .25 to .33 acre lots around here that have water & power (paid by renter) that rent for $350 a month.
 
Steve Smyth
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John Saltveit wrote:I wouldn't site your house under power lines. There are books on the topic, like "Zapped". It's an issue. How big? I don't know.
John S
PDX OR



No worries there. I would not consider placing a home under the power lines. Fortunately there is enough space away from the power lines to place a couple of modest dwellings.
 
Steve Smyth
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Deb Stephens wrote:
Steve, We have power lines running across two different portions of our property So ... to finally answer your question ...
YES, you can garden in a power cut, but look out for compacted soil, people and animals coming through, potential herbicide and other chemical residues in your soil and crews with heavy machinery suddenly showing up to drive through without notice.



Deb,

Thanks for the awesome input!!

I had not considered the potential for spraying. I will have to keep that in mind.

As to some of the other points you made, fortunately in this instance there are gates and no trespassing signs where the easement crosses roadways so it is not as easily accessed by the general public.

It appears that the majority of the utility traffic keeps to a roadway down the center of the easement.

Lastly, this location is relatively flat and is good soil covered with vegetation so erosion does not appear to be an issue.

Thanks again.
 
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Here in Southern California, you often see large nurseries planted under power lines. Row after row after row of big potted trees and other landscaping plants. I think that's a fantastic use for that space. They bring in a couple of portable buildings for equipment storage and their sales office, but nobody lives there. So commercial buildings (again, they look temporary and moveable) but not residential. Down in the heart of the city, there are several really large, well established community gardens that are found under power lines. Land is at such a premium, people take advantage of whatever space they find -- abandoned railroad right of ways being another.

My little brother lives up your direction in Federal Way. The city of Federal Way took an unsightly power line easement and built a long, mostly wild, city park through that space. They laid down meandering asphalt bike paths that go for miles, and in the evening, there are hundreds of people out there walking their dogs, running, riding bikes, roller-blading . . . it's a great community space. The Scotch Broom and volunteer Douglas Fir trees have colonized the space quickly, so I would imagine that they have to cut some of that back from time to time, but it's full of rabbits, birds and life.

I like the idea of taking advantage of such space. A small herd of goats can help you keep the brush down. Moveable electric fencing could be your best friend—keeping goats in and deer out. Would you have access to run a hose for water?

Best of luck.
 
Marco Banks
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One more thought: $250 a month for something they are paying to upkeep seems WAY too much. If you were to assume all liability for maintaining the property, I'd think they'd want you to take the responsibility off their hands. Offer them a thousand bucks a year, with a contract that when you are done with the land, you'll remove everything man-made from the site.

Getting the language right on the contract would be the big thing for them. Assumption of all risk and liability on your part is what they'll want to see.

But if you framed it as a public relations positive for them, they might like the idea more. You could say, "I would love for you to promote the fact that on this formerly weedy and unused space that you sprayed and bulldozed, there is now a thriving small business that provides organic produce to the community." They can feel free to use your space in their advertising and PR efforts.
 
Steve Smyth
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Marco Banks wrote:One more thought: $250 a month for something they are paying to upkeep seems WAY too much. If you were to assume all liability for maintaining the property, I'd think they'd want you to take the responsibility off their hands. Offer them a thousand bucks a year, with a contract that when you are done with the land, you'll remove everything man-made from the site.

Getting the language right on the contract would be the big thing for them. Assumption of all risk and liability on your part is what they'll want to see.

But if you framed it as a public relations positive for them, they might like the idea more. You could say, "I would love for you to promote the fact that on this formerly weedy and unused space that you sprayed and bulldozed, there is now a thriving small business that provides organic produce to the community." They can feel free to use your space in their advertising and PR efforts.



Hey Marco,

Thanks for pitching in.

I like your idea of the goats and movable fencing.

We see commercial greenhouses under the power lines here as well. I think it is a great use of the land but am somewhat ignorant as to any potential issues that may go along with it. I do not really buy into it being harmful to spend time close to them. More accurately, I think that we are blasting ourselves with soooo much EM energy that being near the power line does not add significantly to the danger.

I am still a bit hung up on the $$. If I purchase the land, clear & grade, gravel the road. Install limited water & power and put in toilet facilities I would expect the value of a 2 acre plot would be more than $83 a month.

When one of the small lots that is rented down the road from me became vacant I wanted to rent it for a friend to place their trailer on. I called the owner as I saw them tearing down the structure that the renter had put up. He told me that it was already rented but he had other lots in the area. He offered to call me when one came available. That was 16 months ago. He charges $350 a month for .25 acres.

Now I know that this is not really an apples-apples comparison but I would expect that a two acre parcel would be worth a similar amount given that the services available are not quite on the same level.

Honestly, if I cannot generate a meaningful ongoing income from rents then I would be better of selling half of it. It is actually two lots. If I performed a lot line adjustment with the county I could have two 5 acre parcels. The first would be on a paved road with an approved septic design. This lot would be 3 acres of woods and two acres cleared with power lines on the back edge of the lot. The second lot would not have a septic design in place. It would be accessed via a gravel road under the power lines. I would have 2 acres with power lines in the "front yard" and 3 acres of woods in the back.

If I did that then I could sell the first lot for (based upon recent sales in the area) almost as much a the purchase price of both lots together.

That idea has its attractions but I really like the idea of like minded neighbors and shared resources.

Random thought: Would the use of a shared "bunkhouse" and use of my tractor add significant value?
 
Steve Smyth
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Let me ask the question in a little bit different manner.

Speaking to the folks that have challenges that are impacting their ability to purchase land at this time:

What would you spend to have 2 acres with a place to park a tiny home, water, power (limited), shared outhouse and shared tractor?

If power demands were significant then I would have to meter & charge (less than $0.10/kwh).
 
Steve Smyth
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If the description was not clear here are two pictures showing the idea.
The first is how the lots are configured today. The second shows how it may look after a lot line adjustment.

The lot line adjustment process would cost me $2000-$3000.
Permie_Land_orig.png
[Thumbnail for Permie_Land_orig.png]
Original
Permie_Land_revised.png
[Thumbnail for Permie_Land_revised.png]
Revised
 
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I met a fellow who made a deal to control all growth to below 8 feet on his easement. He grows Christmas trees. They pay him a small amount each year.
 
Steve Smyth
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I met a fellow who made a deal to control all growth to below 8 feet on his easement. He grows Christmas trees. They pay him a small amount each year.



Great idea and I am envious as the utility that has the easement specifically bans that activity. You may plant row crops, place 'temporary" greenhouses such as hoophouses and a number of other uses but they specifically disallow tree farms. I would expect that is because, if abandoned, they could eventually grow up into the power lines.

Thanks Dale for the input.
 
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Be aware that if they can get the under growth controlled for their safety and access the power company has no real interest in spraying chemicals or cutting trees. So they will work with you if you can meet their goals in some form. As for chipping they used to just pile the branches out of the right of way or on the edge of it and let it burn. To many people complained and wanted it neat. So now they chip. The cleanup crews are a great source of organic for soil building though since many land owners don't want the chips on their land these crews are nearly always looking for places close at hand to dump loads of chips. You can sometimes get many truck loads delivered to you for free.
 
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If the description was not clear here are two pictures showing the idea.
The first is how the lots are configured today. The second shows how it may look after a lot line adjustment.


Not sure is the power line running north/south or east/west?
It looks like the sections of the lots wher the road loops around them would be clear to describe in a lease agreement as within the property lines to the utility road in the easement. Are you planing on using the area with the septic design. My experience in Pierce County is that if you have a septic design then you can get permits and electricity easily. That makes that portion much more valuable.
I will soon have an access easement on the west boundary of the 5 acres I have available which the adjoining land owner will put a road on in exchange for abandoning the easement on my east line next to my hose and well.
The original plan was to have several spots for tiny house location and agricultural experimentation. If I understand correctly the county requires a fee every 3 months to occupy a movable structure in the county.
I am guessing the property you are looking at is in Snohomish County so you will need to find out what they require. Having some land already cleared would be valuable for getting started. The EMF fields could possibly be helpfully stimulating for some things and harmfully for others. It would be beneficial to the community to measure them and record the observable differences. I do know that a vehicle that is not grounded will build up a charge in the metal and be rather shocking when you ground it to open the door. How much poser could be drawn off from the wasted EMF field?
Any way back to the orientation; the tree shadows on the right side of the picture look too long to be from the south because the pictures are generally taken in the summer when the sky is clear so it is probably a sun rising picture meaning the open land on the right side would have the advantage of the protective shading in the late afternoon during the summer heat. There appears to be a single line on that side. Is that a lower voltage or for lightening protection?
The link to my land is in the signature.
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Around here, the going rental rate for agricultural property is negative... By that I mean that people pretty much have to pay to have a farmer take care of it for them. There is so much land that is a burden to the property owner. They wish someone/anyone would take care of it for them to relieve them of the burden. I turn down offers every year to take care of more rent-free land.  Before I realized that the true rental cost of agricultural land in this area is zero, I was paying about $40 per acre per year. My grandmother for her land that I didn't farm was collecting about $50 per acre per year.



In my area of E. TN, they spray herbicides under the power lines as that is lower maintenance than using power equipment. Might want to look into local practices in your area on that topic.
 
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It's a good point that if you can control the undergrowth and meet the goals of the utility co. while also meeting your goals, there may be some added incentive there since they are otherwise required to spend time, money, and effort to meet their goals.

Surprised nobody has experienced this and mentioned it: on a few occasions I've found my woodland walks taking me on detours through power line corridors. On the occasions I've stayed in the corridor for more than 10 minutes or so, I've felt a headache. In one case, I and about 3/5 of the other folks in my group also got headaches. Maybe it is because of the sudden heavy sunlight coming out of a forest opening but I don't get the same headache coming into an open field.

I don't know enough about E/M to know if those power lines can affect us but I do think it is worth considering. Do utility workers have any kind of safety regulations limiting time spent near the lines, like the safety regulations in place for those working with non-mundane levels of radiation? If so, think twice before settling next to them and/or growing food under them.
 
Jamie Davis
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People with houses close to major lines do develop major health issues. And the houses dont sell easily or quickly.
 
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