Visitor Question: We purchased a one acre home lot. In our deed it states "no fence" across the 20' pipeline easement on the back of my property. If a 20' gate were constructed across the easement would this be legal? Is a gate a "fence"? Obviously gate access would be provided to the entity with rights to the easement. It would either be kept unlocked or a key provided to them.
Editors Reply: Generally the purpose of a pipeline easement or utility easement of any kind is to allow the pipeline or utility company access for maintenance. Usually both these types of easements are linear, meaning long and skinny.
Indeed that seems to be what you are describing on your property. It also seems that you are saying you want to put a gate across, meaning perpendicular to, the main direction of the easement. If so, the pipeline company might see this as defeating the purpose of the linear, long and skinny, easement allowing their equipment to run alongside the pipeline.
Having said that, it is possible that the pipeline company would grant you permission to build this gate, with the provision that either you leave it unlocked or that you give the company a key. It is worth asking. If they say yes, however, we would recommend that you get this agreement in writing so that there are no questions about the arrangement in the future. You might sell or become incapacitated; the pipeline company might be bought out or at least the manager in charge of maintenance in this area may change.
Putting ourselves in the shoes of the pipeline company for a moment, one concern might be that the gate would need to have support posts on either side. Usually these types of easements are right up against the property line, so if I were the pipeline manager I would be asking myself how you are going to make a gate across the easement on the far rear of your property without intruding into my 20 feet.
So to answer your question directly, we think that yes, for this purpose a gate is similar to a fence in that it is a potential obstruction, but yet if you make a way for the gate to be opened easily, the company may grant you permission. It probably depends on how much they actually need every inch of their 20 feet for their equipment. It's worth a try.
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