What is a Public Road Right-of-Way?
In Minnesota, it is a strip of land of a specific width, which has been legally established by a property owner, a court of law, and/or a county, for public road purposes. The road right-of-way is typically much wider than the road itself, because it includes roadside ditches, roadbed slopes, and cleared space to ensure adequate visibility and safety. The right-of-way lines, on both sides of the roadway, separate the abutting owners’ property from the land available to the public or local road agency for road construction and maintenance.
Lake County road right-of-way exists for transportation purposes. Users include motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians. In addition, State Law and Lake County permitting allows utilities to occupy this right-of-way. Also, state statutes allow ATVs and snowmobiles to travel in the right of ways on the ditch bottoms and back slopes. It is illegal to place any barricade that prevents their safe passage within the right of way. If you believe damage is being done to your property, your only recourse is to get a description of the machine, license number, name of person, etc and report it to the sheriff or police department that has jurisdiction in your area.
Common Right-of-Way Violations
The only things that can be in the right of way are:
- Your legal mailbox setting
- Permitted drainage culverts and driveways
- Permitted utilities (public or private)
- Signage to keep the highway safe
Common right of way violations that occur include:
- Over-designed mailbox settings
- Constructing or reconstructing an access without a permit
- Plowing snow across the highway
- Constructing landscape retaining walls
- Placing fences, boulders, posts, trees and shrubbery within the right of way
- Unpermitted signs
These all are illegal and can be prosecuted. Lake County requires (at the owner’s expense) the removal of any such items placed in the right of way that may constitute a potential safety hazard. If a citizen is injured by something placed by you within the right of way, both you and Lake County may be held liable. Upon notification the owner must take immediate corrective measures to restore the right of way to its former condition or Lake County must act to keep the right of way open and safe. We will dispatch crews and equipment if necessary and may seek additional support from the county’s enforcement and legal staff. If it is determined that injury or loss of property was caused by your illegal act your homeowners insurance may not protect you.
Business and Other Signs in Highway Right-of-Way
Signs may be located up to the right-of-way line, (contact the Highway Department for right-of-way width) but in no case closer than thirty-three (33) feet to the centerline of the road as long as all other requirements of Article 23 of the Lake County Comprehensive Plan and Land Use Ordinance #12, amended March 12, 2002, are met.
To request the right-of-way on your road, please use the form below or call (218) 834-8380.