My township is putting in a public water system which I opposed. They are proposing to run the water lines in front of my property and are wanting me to sign a document granting them a perpetual 20 foot easement to maintain the lines. They claim that they are not responsible to pay for the easement itself, only for any damages caused by the installation or maintenance of the lines. Am I entitled to any payment for this easement?
Maybe. As a general matter, land owners are not required to provide easements on their property. However, there are several exceptions to this rule. One would be if you were subject to some sort of agreement (this could be one that affects any property owner, and may have been entered into before you bought your property). This could be an agreement amongst neighboring property owners, or with the water company.
Another would be if the town is acting under the governmental right of “eminent domain.” In general, government agencies can force owners to give up all or part of their property, but under the U.S. Constitution (specifically, the Seventh Amendment), this can only be done if the owner receives just compensation. Unfortunately, in the case of an easement for a water line, “just compensation” might be as little as zero.
What I would suggest is that you put the ball in their court: Ask them if you are required to agree to this easement, and if so, under what authority. If you’re not satisfied with the answer, or if you think the compensation they’re offering is insufficient, then it’s time to consult with a local attorney.